Although an American holiday, Thanksgiving is widely celebrated locally by US guests and others who need little encouragement to enjoy a festive meal or party. The question often heard from cynics around this time is what to be thankful for.
First, the hurricane season lasts until the end of the month; however, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami does not expect any tropical cyclone development for the next five days, so it’s safe to assume the island was spared any significant storm this year. One can only imagine the socioeconomic impact a major hit would have coming on top of the unprecedented coronavirus-related crisis.
Second, both the Netherlands and France provided free COVID-19 testing, vaccination and medical assistance to protect the population against the potentially deadly disease. This way a healthcare breakdown with all possible consequences could be averted.
Third, despite the dominant hospitality sector taking a devastating and long-lasting blow from the pandemic, Dutch liquidity support allowed St. Maarten’s government to keep going and help businesses in good standing with wage subsidies to compensate for lost earnings and save jobs, as well as persons left out of work, sole proprietors and independent operators. These soft loans, which came with tough conditions intended mostly to reduce cost and keep the situation manageable, allowed the country to prevent mass layoffs and widespread abject poverty, along with food aid, while the French side had its own assistance programmes.
Fourth, the destination’s repeat visitors, many of whom are more like part-time residents, have started returning in numbers. That kind of customer loyalty is what made “The Friendly Island” a top tourism industry player in the region.
So, there is indeed a lot to appreciate, including still being employed with at least some income in most cases, but also family, friends and – above all – wellbeing. Complaining is always easy, but people should also learn to value what they have under no doubt difficult circumstances.