The story in Monday’s paper about an American couple paying to repair the bronze pelicans at the airport roundabout damaged by Hurricane Irma was heart-warming. These long-time visitors wanted to give back something tangible and offered their assistance, while local sculptor Michael Maghiro promised to share the cost of fixing the statues he created.
Some may say the work of art and other infrastructure surrounding the country’s main gateway should be covered by its insurance, although this also concerns a public road. Others might argue that with more than US $100 million available to reconstruct the terminal this job could have easily been thrown in.
Regardless, the point is that there are people who do not even live here full-time but consider it their “home away from home” and care to the extent that they would make such a generous gesture. In this case they have been regular guests for more than two decades and recently purchased a residence.
The latter is the kind of repeat business St. Maarten’s hospitality industry is known for, in part because of its dominant timeshare sector, and the number of vacation condos has also grown steadily over the years. After prior crises with a big negative impact on holiday travel like the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, the global financial crash as well as several earlier similarly devastating hurricanes, it was always this loyalty factor that helped the tourism economy rebound.
There is no reason to believe that will not again be the case once the worst of the current COVID-19 pandemic is over. Thankfully, “The Friendly Island” is itself blessed with friends.