Home away from home

Home away from home

Tuesday’s Parliament meeting about the airport’s finances and reconstruction project did not produce a firm target date for the facility to receive commercial flights. That obviously depends on when government lifts the coronavirus incoming travel ban, but also on what the airlines and their countries of origin intend to do.

While the fourth and final phase of St. Maarten’s staggered de-escalation is scheduled for June 15, the tourism economy cannot run until visitors are again allowed to come. How many will and under exactly what post-pandemic circumstances remains to be seen, but the intention must surely be to get them back once responsibly possible from a healthcare perspective.

July was at one point suggested for reopening the borders and if that is the plan it would probably be helpful to know as early as possible. The local hospitality sector will require some time to synchronise with the other stakeholders and prepare for “the new normal” in the holiday business.

Wearing face masks is now mandatory on many flights and similar precautions can be expected throughout the travel industry, including resorts, tourist attractions and the cruise lines. Destinations obviously play a major role in this process and both sides of the island reporting only one new COVID-19 case each for the last two weeks certainly helps.

Dutch tour organisation Corendon even wants to test all personnel and clients so it can use company buses and planes to safely transport passengers to its all-inclusive properties such as the newly-built hotel in Curaçao (see related story). They could then freely mingle and have fun among themselves but must stay on the premises.

In most instances social distancing, strict hygiene measures and frequent sanitising will simply need to be practised, which undoubtedly changes the vacation experience. Nevertheless, the inviting crystal blue sea, white sandy beaches, rolling green hills and scenic lagoons of St. Maarten will still be there, along with its generally good-natured and helpful population.

People should not forget either that many guests are repeat visitors, who often own timeshare weeks or vacation condos. Although there may be fewer than before especially at first, eventually they will return to their home away from home.