Photo caption – Dr. Mercelina receiving 12 palettes of medical supplies to restock the hospital from SHTA volunteers.
The Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) has sent in a first broad advice for economic recovery of country Sint Maarten. The association was requested to share its ideas for country Sint Maarten’s future by the Workgroup National Recovery Plan led by Joan Dovale. Its first recommendations were drafted based on many talks with its member companies from Hospitality and Trade sectors.
First and foremost, the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) very much regrets the loss of human life and injuries caused by the hurricane and expresses deeply felt sympathy to the families of victims, as well as the tremendous damage done to Sint Maarten society at large, where no one has been left untouched. For a long time, the mantra of SHTA has been “Make St. Maarten A Great Place to Live and It will be a Great Place to Visit”. In other words, building a great tourism destination can only go hand in hand with building a great society for all.
This is why the association’s advice starts with recommendations guarding the welfare of the Sint Maarten society, as well as safeguarding its natural beauty and environment, both prerequisites in these dire times to enabling the economy at large to rebuild. According to many of its member businesses, ongoing provision of security to society is a key threshold for successful recovery.
Most of the recommendations SHTA is putting forward is to ensure business continuity. As first assessments show, many enterprises, as well as large and small tourism properties have been heavily damaged and will need months, some even years, to recover. Economic relief, to be shared equitably over the entire business community and directed towards economic growth, can for example be established by employee payment assistance from government and tax relief where possible. The association further underlines the importance of a strong, well defined positioning of the Sint Maarten destination for a successful comeback; leveraging quick to rebound sectors like yachting and cruise that do not rely as heavily on our infrastructure as stay-over tourism.
As the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association represents many sectors like wholesale, marine, shipping, retail as well as the hospitality industry. Next to societal and economic advice, SHTA underlines the importance of infrastructure improvement in a third and last chapter of recommendations. Construction and recovery work will further strain the already congested Sint Maarten traffic, and the association posed various solutions to cope with this.
The recovery recommendations follow efforts of SHTA to get international aid in for country Sint Maarten. As it became clear that hurricane Irma posed a clear threat for country Sint Maarten, some board members of SHTA were coincidentally on leave in Europe. While the hurricane made its way, this committee convened in Paris to directly start organizing relief aid as of September 7th. The committee succeeded in coordinating the first non-military relief flight into the island as well assisting with many evacuations.
Most notably, SHTA wants to thank the rapid action of Samaritan’s Purse, LIFT, Airlink, Rescue Global, ADRA, Rise Against Hunger and Water Solutions Management among many others for providing badly needed medical supplies, desalinization plants, food and water, tarps and various other goods in the immediate aftermath. Nearly all aid flights in took passengers out, and airlines like Sunwing, Jet Blue and Delta brought in by STB and SHTA made many trips solely for evacuations. Together relief flights evacuated approximately 10,000 visitors, students and residents.
More importantly, SHTA could not have been able to receive or distribute many of goods on the ground in the early days after Irma without the assistance of the Ministry of TEATT; the VKS and the many member volunteers at its disposal. SHTA wants to further commend the Royal Dutch Marines, the Royal Marechaussee and KPSM for their efforts in safeguarding our community and assisting the relief goods to get to their destination.
In its recommendations, SHTA sees cooperation with the government and NGOs as a best practice for public-private teamwork, and underlines the need for maintaining and expanding this for the full recovery of Sint Maarten. The association looks to constructively cooperate with all committees involved in rebuilding Sint Maarten. The association asks membership to send in suggestions for speedy economic recovery to firstname.lastname@example.org, enabling the association to further expand its advice in a second edition.