It is hard not to get a bit excited about news that Delta is planning to resume regular flights to the Caribbean, including St. Maarten, next month. While no guarantee exists this will really happen, the intention at least creates some prospect for the eventual recovery of the local tourism economy from the severe impact of COVID-19.
But one should hardly be surprised, as airlines surviving the worldwide crisis have little choice but to try to re-establish markets. With the fourth and final phase of St. Maarten’s staggered reopening to start on June 15, the US carrier’s timing may not be far off.
Cruise lines are also eyeing a return with passengers come August. In both cases protecting the population from the dreaded coronavirus must obviously be balanced with the urgent need to restore people’s livelihoods that depend almost completely on vacationers.
The destination needs to prepare to receive guests again in a safe and responsible manner. Doing so decisively and effectively could be a determining factor going forward because competitors within the region and elsewhere are surely not sitting still.
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever has formed a workgroup with stakeholders to achieve a sustainable recovery. It was said to consist of “up-and-coming and established professionals.” Hopefully, these include someone from the Chamber of Commerce, which recently said it had not been consulted on the Economic Re-opening Plan.
The global travel industry may rebound more quickly than many realise, and the trick is to be ready when it does. Just as an example, various yachts scheduled to seek shelter in Curaçao during the hurricane season have reportedly switched to Aruba because it offered more favourable conditions for their occupants once maritime border closures are lifted.
Which each challenge comes opportunity, as insurmountable as the current problems often seem.