From left: Wyb Meijer, Keith Graham, Paul Henriquez, Minister of VSA Omar Ottley, Ricardo Perez, Anne-Marie Brooks and Kenrick Housen.
PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley assured the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) that the travel restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted, as of November 1.
“That was the main message from Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Omar Ottley when he met with the members of the SHTA on Thursday,” it was stated in a press release from the Minister’s Cabinet issued on Friday.
Lifting the restrictions will remove all rules against non-essential travel for all those wanting to vacation in St. Maarten. Travelers will only need to meet the usual immigration and border control requirements to visit the island.
According to the release, Ottley has indicated that while all entry requirements may have been dropped, there will be health officials present to monitor passengers entering the country. Travelers who may be experiencing flu-like signs or symptoms, may be required to test before they depart the airport.
The minister told the SHTA that the arrival platform is being updated and should be online by the first quarter of 2023. He said the Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) had provided valuable data to the Tourism Ministry and government throughout the past couple of years. The new goal is to create a new system focusing on targeted marketing strategies to bring more visitors to our shores.
“St. Maarten has done exceptionally well in its fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus two (SARS-CoV-2) COVID-19. The country is now fully engaged in restoring economic activity, and one key aspect of economic revitalisation is the return of visitors in large numbers. At the same time, while we concentrate on rebuilding our tourism destination, our work will continue to protect the population, including our visitors,” said Ottley.
Recently, the SHTA made a public plea for the removal of the EHAS, as it feared the COVID-19-related travel restrictions would limit the potential for St. Maarten to experience a strong tourism season after several years of low and slow-to-rise visitor arrival numbers. Already more than 150 tourism destinations globally have lifted their travel ban and restrictions to welcome visitors.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) still advocates proper safety measures against contracting COVID-19. However, these measures also serve to prevent the spread of other transmittable diseases.”
“While the global COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, it may shift from pandemic to endemic. We must therefore contend with the need to feed the population. That means putting our people back to work and welcoming visitors back to our shores in full force for the upcoming season, which is on target to be great,” said Ottley.
The minister said it was important that a proper assessment be done of the island’s readiness to transition back to normalcy.
“The hospitality industry did exceptionally well to control the spread of COVID-19, and these measures can prove effective against the potential spread of other transmittable diseases,” he continued. Ottley encouraged the hospitality industry to use its best practices to protect its staff and visitors.
“St. Maarten must remain vigilant and be mindful that before COVID-19, hotels and the island dealt with other transmittable diseases that were harmful to the economy and the people,” he concluded.