Today’s news from the St. Maarten Timeshare Association (SMTA) is most encouraging, as a steady increase in room inventory is foreseen. Expectations that the 2020-2021 season will start with no fewer than 2,050 units on the market should help inspire confidence in the future of the local hospitality industry and economy in general.

Of course, a lot still needs to happen, most notably construction of Sunwing Group’s Planet Hollywood on the site of the former Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel. But with Flamingo Beach Resort and Royal Palm Beach Resort scheduled to reopen in the second quarter next year plus other resorts fully back online, prospects for the dominant stayover tourism product seem good.

Currently 1,240 units are available, down from 1,910 pre-Hurricane Irma. The reported average occupancy of 87 per cent during the first six months of this year can be considered favourable as well, certainly under the circumstances.

These figures once again illustrate the importance of getting the restoration of Princess Juliana International (PJIA) to its former glory going sooner rather later. It simply makes little sense to keep putting more “heads in beds” if the destination is unable to comfortably fly them in and out.

One must therefore hope that recent developments in Parliament do not have any negative impact on rebuilding the terminal with a soft loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a grant from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund managed by the World Bank, for US $50 million each. The project ought to be elevated above local politics.