News that the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM has stepped down no doubt raised an eyebrow or two, particularly in the hospitality industry. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong and Larry Donker reportedly reached retirement age last year.

However, since former Managing Director Regina Labega’s contract wasn’t renewed Donker as Deputy Director has held the fort, which begs the question who will take over when he apparently leaves per May 15. Supervisory Board Chairman Gary Matser was quick to point out there’s a succession system for such cases and this would not affect daily operations.

That’s reassuring and, of course, what he can be expected to say, but the public is left wondering who will be running the show at one of the most important institutions for both the Dutch and French sides of the island. Needless to say, Airport SXM is crucial to the local tourism economy and hence indispensable for the livelihood of practically all inhabitants.

The Airport remains tied to loan schemes with strict requirements for the terminal as well as other expansions and renovations that have taken and continue to take place, while there is also the long-awaited planned FBO facility for non-commercial aviation, including private jets.

Bringing these projects to a good end while maintaining the Government-owned company on solid fiscal footing is essential. Other pending matters include the initiative of US pre-clearance and enhanced use of e-gates, just to name a few.

The financing restrictions supposedly prevent the payment of any dividends or a concession fee, which bothers the shareholder representatives. Finance Minister Richard Gibson has now suggested a departure tax on top of what is already charged to exiting travellers and actually amounts to a passenger handling fee.

So, whoever heads the airport in the future had better be well-prepared and ready for the job at hand, because it will more than likely prove quite a challenge. Every ship needs a captain.

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