A better way

A better way

The postponement of Monday’s Parliament meeting on St. Maarten’s reopening for international travel was disappointing to say the least. That members instead toured Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and received an explanation from management is nice but does little for the public in general.

July 1 is tomorrow and the first flight from Atlanta arrives just one day later. With the current COVID-19 situation in the US and particularly certain states, there is understandable concern and a need for reassurance from government.

That will hopefully be provided at this morning’s virtual Council of Ministers press conference on the topic and when the rescheduled plenary session takes place in the afternoon. Some other issues can then be dealt with too, like the impact of the European Union (EU) most probably excluding the US from its borders reopening plans.

After all, St. Martin is an integral part of France and thus the EU. Although that should not stop American carriers from offering service to the Dutch side and its airport, there are already indications of possible cancelations for this very reason.

There had reportedly been a discussion between authorities from both sides of the island, but it was not immediately known whether and to what extent this matter came up. To be clear, St. Maarten – while in the Kingdom of the Netherlands – is not European territory and is autonomous regarding its visitor entry requirements.

Still, the open border obviously presents a challenge unless policies are coordinated, which is not always easy. St. Maarten’s hospitality industry greatly depends on the US market, so keeping that closed was not an option.

The same goes for Aruba, resulting in Curaçao that gets mostly Dutch tourists threatening to stop air traffic with the other two islands. Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as the Caribbean Netherlands apparently have the same position.

It was pointed out earlier in this column what a negative effect that could have on local airline Winair and the hub-function of PJIA. There must be a better way.