In plain sight

In plain sight

St. Maarten’s number of active COVID-19 cases is back in the 20s this week after rising into the 40s earlier this month following a mid-March low of eight. Up to now a much feared “third wave” of the pandemic thankfully has not materialised on the island, but this is no time for people to let their guard down.

Especially with the more contagious British and other variants a mass outbreak could happen quickly as – among others – Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao already experienced, with all possible consequences. Nevertheless, on both the Dutch and French sides any major spread seems to have been avoided at least for the moment.

One cannot overemphasise the importance of keeping it that way for obvious health risk considerations and so the island can finally start its socioeconomic recovery in earnest. The other required aspect is vaccination to achieve herd immunity, making it essential that a large majority of adult residents get injected.

Once those two hurdles are cleared, the destination should be able to optimally benefit from what regional travel experts are calling a “delayed high season” with inhabitants of North America and Europe tired of being more or less “cooped up” the entire winter craving a relatively safe Caribbean vacation. Despite home-porting initiatives, a significant return of cruise ships will probably take a while, but stayover tourism may bounce back faster and stronger than many might realise.

Preparing well in terms of logistics, protocols and precautions can certainly give destinations an added advantage and that is exactly what the local hospitality sector appears to be doing. But those efforts could easily prove in vain if “The Friendly Island” messes up in terms of COVID-19 transmissions, which would be even more regrettable with the finish line in plain sight.