Today’s news concerning the marine industry gives rise to some optimism that the island might have a decent yachting season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. A protocol with applicable rules and regulations was being finalised to provide much-anticipated clarity.
While there will obviously be coronavirus-related conditions to comply with that include onboard quarantining, an effort has been made to accommodate specific characteristics of the sector. Not counting sailing days in the minimum five-day term before arrival to get a negative PCR test result is such a practical way to get around the fact that travel by sea takes significantly longer than by air.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever mentioned positive feedback, saying that people are keen to come also because this year’s Mediterranean season in the summer was basically cancelled. St. Maarten Martine Trades Association (SMMTA) too seems upbeat and has its eye on the competitive aspect; for example, by keeping down the cost of small cruising vessels with an exemption from the requirement to have agents handle the clearing in and out, which is meant to prevent crowds at Immigration.
Mind you, operational details were still being worked out, but the approach in any case at first glance appears to be sensible enough. It will be up to stakeholders, including marinas, to give the best possible service that will enhance the experience.
Another matter of great importance to the entire island and especially Philipsburg –planning the resumption of cruise tourism – is already well underway at international, regional and local level. St. Maarten having been asked to represent the Dutch Caribbean on the relevant taskforce helps ensure close involvement and a leading role in the process.
Some may be fearful about the potential health risk of receiving either boats or ships with passengers again, but the livelihood of the population to a considerable extent depends on it. The reality is that for its socioeconomic survival, the destination must get back to “everybody’s business” as soon as responsibly possible.