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PHILIPSBURG – Hurricane Irma put the Rainforest Adventure Park to the test in September of last year but the project withstood the monster storm perfectly even though the wind speeds at the top of Sentry Hill must have been out of this world.
Irma hit St. Maarten with sustained wind speeds of 185 miles (298 kilometers) per hour with higher gusts reaching 225 miles (362 kilometers). Rainforest’s chief engineer John Dalton says that sustained wind speeds of 200 miles per hour were the minimum design specification for the cable lift that leads from Rockland Estate up to the top of Sentry Hill. “The design took higher wind gusts into consideration. I believe that is approximately what we saw at the top of Sentry Hill so Irma took things right to the edge of the design envelope.”
That the installation survived Irma’s onslaught is not only due to its design; hurricane preparedness also played an important role. Dalton: “We removed all the chairs from the chairlifts and strapped them down, leaving the cables on the towers. We also dropped the zip line cables into the bush and tied them off so they could not get loose. We double barred the hurricane shutters on all the new buildings and put lots of weight on the loose containers.”
The preparation took an effort from employees and contractors that Dalton deeply appreciates. “Our employees and contractors showed up in force and worked very hard to protect all they had built. They deserve tremendous credit for being St. Maarten Strong. Irma showed what an awesome team we have at Rockland Estate.”
Dalton notes that the park was designed to withstand an event like Hurricane Irma. Nevertheless, he says: “We were quite relieved that there was not more damage as things went more or less as planned. The best move we made was to really clean up so there was a minimum of flying debris.”
The hurricane also put the company’s bottom line to the test. After the storm, cruise ships avoided St. Maarten for a while and that put a damper on the number of visitors to the attraction park. Local visitors partially saved the day: The attraction was built for tourists and locals alike and it is the high level of local visitation, even at our guilder=dollar local rate, that has allowed us to get a marginal foothold and keep our employees paid,” Dalton says. “However, as with most businesses, the effect of the hurricane has been negative. We have worked with our partners and lenders to adapt the structure of the project to the current realities of the market.”
Rainforest Adventures had so far proven to be a blessing for the local labor market. Dalton says that the company currently employs sixty people. “We expect the payroll to hopefully increase with business. There are only two foreign employees at the park who are top specialists in their fields.”
The search for a site and the discussions with the government go back to 2009. Rockland Estate quickly stood out, Dalton says. “We were so impressed with the amazing views fro the property, its historical and natural significance and the opportunity to bring a unique destination-defining attraction to St. Maarten that we focused a lot of our organization’s resources on pursuing what we feel is today one of the best attractions in the Caribbean.”
Dalton notes that Rainforest has developed a good working relationship with the government. “We collaborated closely with the government to define the project’s different components and share our planning program. Once they had a firm understanding of the challenges and benefits they took the decision to issue permits. The process took somewhat longer than expected but we are happy to have developed a good working relationship with the government and the community. It is our hope that this investment will serve as an example of the potential in St. Maarten and at the same time help refresh the local tourism product.”
For a more in-depth look at the technical challenges Dalton’s team had to overcome with the design and construction of the Rainforest Adventure park go to: https://skytraclifts.com/john-daltons-lifted-life-in-the-caribbean/
Photo caption: Chief engineer John Dalton at work. Photo skytraclifts.com. Top photo of Rainforest Adventures Skylift installation by Hilbert Haar.
PORT ST. MAARTEN – Mein Schiff 6 made its inaugural call last Friday, April 6th and was welcomed by Acting Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Cornelius de Weever, Port St. Maarten Supervisory Board members and Management, along with representatives from the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, during the traditional welcome and plaque exchange ceremony.
Captain Simon Boddger of Mein Schiff 6 during his welcome message said he was very happy to visit the island adding that he was amazed with the rebuilding effort that has been going on, and how good the island was looking since the September hurricanes.
Captain Boddger said it was his first trip to the island and therefore it was a special visit for him. Mein Schiff 6 was initially scheduled to make its first call in November 2017, but due to the passing of Hurricane Irma, the cruise line was forced to change its itinerary.
Acting Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Cornelius de Weever was delighted to welcome the Captain, crew and passengers to the ‘Friendly Island’ on Friday. “TUI Cruises is one of our important cruise stakeholders. They are committed to the destination and we look forward to receiving many more of their vessels as they come online.
“The TUI Group has been responding to growing demand and has ordered new ships as they have identified the cruise market as a roadmap for growth. TUI Group’s fleet currently comprises 15 cruise ships and the overall fleet will grow to 18 ships by 2023.
“Another very important point is that they cater to the German and European travel market. This is also very important for our destination. According to a TUI global survey, sustainable tourism is most popular among German and French tourists; one in ten Europeans book eco-friendly holidays; around two-thirds of holidaymakers are prepared to make lifestyle trade-offs to benefit the environment.
“As our country steps up rebuilding activities in the coming months and years, sustainable tourism should be part of building back better. Today’s traveller is looking out for much more and our country has to be at the forefront of trends and developments that are taking place in sustainable cruise tourism in order to maximize the benefits and cruise tourism experiences for passengers,” Minister Cornelius de Weever concluded.
Mein Schiff 6 is now on its way to the Mediterranean Sea and will stop in Madeira, Portugal. Out of the Mediterranean, TUI Cruises will be offering a new itinerary for that area in the coming months. Captain Boddger said TUI Cruises was committed to the island and that the lines other ships will be calling at the destination in the coming months.
Prior to making its port of call at St. Maarten, Mein Schiff 6 last port call was La Romana in the Dominican Republic which is one of its homeports in the Caribbean. During the 2017-2018 cruise season, the vessel has been visiting ports in the Caribbean and Central America.
The new build ship made its maiden voyage a transatlantic cruise from Europe to the United States in September 2017.
The vessel is the newest member of the fleet of TUI Cruises and is identical to her sister-ship the Mein Schiff 5.
TUI Cruises, a German cruise line, is a joint venture of the German tourist firm, TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises.
The cruise line caters to the German market. The majority of guests on-board were from Germany. The percentage of German travellers on board TUI ships is around 80 per cent.
The vessel was built by Meyer Turku Shipyard in Turku, Finland at an investment cost of US$620 million. Mein Schiff was delivered in May 2017 and christened in Port Hamburg, Germany in June 2017.
Mein Schiff 6 has a gross tonnage of 99,800; length 968 feet; beam 115 feet; and can carry 2,534 – 2,700 passengers and 1,000 crew. The new build has a number of improvements in passenger amenities and energy efficiency.
PHOTO CUTLINE: L to R: Captain Simon Boddger and Minister Cornelius de Weever during the plaque exchange ceremony.
TOP PHOTO CUTLINE: Group photo.
POND ISLAND – Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever, says for those seeking employment opportunities during these challenging times, should visit the Divi Little Bay Beach Resort Job Fair on Saturday, April 7.
A hosts of positions are open: Accounting Clerk, Guest Service/Front Desk Agents, Front Desk Supervisors, General maintenance, Servers, F&B Supervisors, Barista, Hostess, Housekeeping Coordinator, Room attendants, Laundry attendants and supervisors, and Houseman/Driver.
The Job Fair will take place at Divi Little Bay Reception Area from 9.00am to 12.00pm on Saturday.
Divi Little Bay Beach Resort is planning to partially reopen the property on May 1st.
“The re-opening of yet another resort in the country is great news for our economy. It sends a strong message to industry stakeholders such as airlines and travelers that we are open for business. Additional hotel rooms means more airlift for the country, more stay-over visitors and cheaper airfares.
“We are slowly getting there, but it will take some time before our country is back to pre-Irma economic levels. I take this opportunity to commend Divi Little Bay Beach Resort owners and management for being steadfast and committed in their redevelopment and re-opening of the property.
“This opportunity at the same time creates employment opportunities for the many who are jobless. Providing quality hospitality services to our visitors is essential and is what makes destination Sint Maarten standout from among the rest. We must live up to the ‘Friendly Island’ expectation and continue to provide that memorable destination experience.
“I would like to use this opportunity to call on the other resorts that are closed, to fast-track their planning where rebuilding is concerned so our country can be back on track quicker, better and stronger.
“The rebuilding, renovations and renewal process of hotel properties will benefit the overall image of the country as a tourist’s destination in the long-run. Some properties within our hotel stock needed to be renovated and now is the time to do so.
“At the same time, the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean last September also proved that we need to have infrastructure that can now withstand what is now the new normal, Category 5+.
“Building back our infrastructure better and stronger are the buzz words for the foreseeable future,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Thursday.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Minister Cornelius de Weever.
ORIENT BAY – The scars Hurricane Irma inflicted back in September of last year on Orient Beach, once the island’s prime tourist destination, are still visible but the place is slowly coming back to life. Tourists are returning and small businesses have sprung up here and there.
Most importantly, the beach is in good shape. It is wide – and white. Most of the beach lovers are on the far end in front of the now defunct clothing optional resort Club Orient. The characteristic yellow parasols give the beach its sunny outlook. Way back from the beach a bar has been established.
Near Orient village, heavy equipment operators are working on the reconstruction of Bikini Beach for Sindex Tours that obtained a building permit for the construction of close to 137 square meters (see photo above). Bikini Beach will be set further back from the high water line as well. Further down the beach, work is also underway to rebuild other beach bars and restaurants but the way it looked on Tuesday it could take some time before these jobs are finished.
Months ago, when there was no activity whatsoever on the destroyed and deserted beach, a little green cabin sprung up right next to Pedro’s, a bar that is still completely in ruins. It was the initiative of Luis, a South American who sells pareos and swimwear.
In front if his cabin a local man sits in the sand, displaying some handicraft, but he does not want to be photographed, unless I give him 5 dollars. Unfortunately, I went to the beach with empty pockets, so that picture did not come about.
Just behind Luis’ pareo and swimwear cabin is the beach bar and restaurant Chez Leandra; further down a small company is renting out jet skis.
The return of several beach vendors – peddling hats, pareos and other odds and ends – indicates that Orient Beach is now again attractive for business as well.
Two American tourists, camping out under an improvised tent, said that they are happy to be back in St. Maarten, though they had expected more people on the beach.
Why not go to the Club Orient Beach? “Nah, they’re all naked there. We don’t want to go there,” was the reaction.
Photo caption: Chez Leandra is back with an improvised beach bar. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: A destroyed excavator rests in the sand near The Palms. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: A small operation but still jet ski rentals are back on Orient Beach. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: American tourists enjoy the beach under an improvised tent. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: A walk on the beach – it doesn’t get more peaceful than that. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: A beach vendor haggles with a potential customer. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: This little hut of pareo and swimwear vendor Luis was the first one to return to Orient Beach. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Photo caption: The Palms is still in ruins and has become a platform for graffiti artists. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Top photo caption: The characteristic yellow parasols of Club Orient are back on the beach. Close-by photography on this beach is prohibited. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Orient Bay Beach top tourist attraction desolate disaster area
From the start of St. Maarten’s decision to become a tourism destination we have focused our efforts on recreational tourism. Basically on our “sea, sun, sand” product. Being the smallest land mass divided between two countries helps. And we’re also duty free. These features and having coined the name “The Friendly Island” has attracted millions of travelers to our shores over the years.
But in this day and age, Caribbean destinations must diversify their product in order to remain relevant. St. Maarten is no different.
In a post-Irma era, what will St. Maarten’s tourism product become?
The coming days we will answer that question in 6 parts. This is the intro. In part two (2), we will look at how hurricane Irma can possibly be a blessing in disguise for St. Maarten.
Photo caption: Angry waves beating down on the beach of Belair. If we don’t change ourselves, adapt and innovate our tourism product, nature will force us to. Photo by Milton Pieters.
With the above question in mind, hurricane Irma can possibly be looked at as a blessing in disguise. The devastation caused by Irma has sent the island a few steps back but we, of course, are looking to come back 100 times better than before. You may be asking, where’s the silver lining? Businesses have closed and people have left and buildings were destroyed. Nonetheless, this gives St. Maarten the chance at a fresh start. It gives the island a chance at providing our visitors, and the locals, a different view of our 37 sq. mile beauty. Thinking post Irma allows us the chance to invest our time into cultural tourism and/or sports tourism.
Photo caption: With the slogan let’s build back better, not only is the resilience of the St. Maarten people put to the test after the damages caused by hurricane Irma, but also the creativity and the innovative spirit of the people and its entrepreneurs will be significantly tested. Photo by Milton Pieters.
In part 3 we will look at ways of expanding our tourism product with culture.
St. Maarten, like every other Caribbean island, is rich with history. However, this history is not taught and shared enough, with locals and foreigners alike, and this needs to change. And what better a time to venture down a new path than when the island is in need of rebranding? When we need something to believe in and build on. The exploration of cultural tourism allows teaching natives, as well as visitors, about what St. Maarten’s been through and has to offer.
Photo caption: This photo is a mixture of culture, history and nature, showing that in a post-Irma environment, we have to focus on sustainable integration of these elements in a balanced manner if everything is work properly and consistently. St. Maarten as a tourist destination cannot survive if we do not focus on sustaining all these elements together. Photo by HIlbert Haar.
The island currently has a new head of the Culture department and a temporary government in place. What better a time for new ideas and new programs to be enacted to build up the cultural strength of the people? The Great Salt Pond, The Simpson Bay Lagoon, The St. Martin Book Fair, St. Maarten Carnival, among so many other great things can be properly introduced and taught to the people of St. Maarten. The people then in turn become the natural ambassadors of the island and the treasures it holds. What is most fascinating about cultural tourism is its ability to benefit a destination in two ways. It allows for the host population to better know their land and hold an unwavering pride in what they have. Also, it gives the opportunity to teach those that visit just what differentiates the destination from every other destination that they come across.
Photo caption: The new head of the Culture Department, Clara Reyes, fully engaging students at the St. Maarten Academy pre-St. Maarten’s Day in November 2017.
In part 5 we will look at other tourism options available to us.
Sports tourism is another option. The opportunity for St. Maarten to become the sports hub of our surrounding islands would be easily attainable. For example, Video X Games (VXG), an e-sports competition held a few years ago, showed us that the region is ready and willing for a reason to visit the Sunshine City. After the success of VXG a few other islands have attempted to pick up where they left off. Fortunately for us, none were able to gain the popularity that VXG brought. With the right management and sponsorship St. Maarten can easily pick up where VXG left off. Other options in sports tourism are marathons, bicycle racing and swimming. The Sunset Triple Mini Triathlon is a perfect example of what is possible in this area as well.
Photo caption: Triathletes running to the plunge in the waves on Maho Beach during the Sunset Triple Mini Triathlon held on Sunday, March 18th, 2018. Photo by Milton Pieters.
In part 6 we wrap up this series with our conclusion.
Merely mentioning the word Caribbean brings up images of a tropical paradise in the minds of most Americans. Except for those living in southern California, Florida, and Texas, most Americans have a strong desire to one day be able to buy a second home or a vacation home in the Caribbean. There are many reasons behind this desire but the prominent one is a chance to live a carefree life on an island where they can enjoy warm and sunny weather conditions all round the year.
Interestingly, the Caribbean begins just 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. But this proximity is of advantage to only those who live in Miami or other parts of Florida. It takes just a few hours for you to reach the Bahamas, Jamaica or Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. Noteworthy is that Puerto Rico is one of the Caribbean island that is a part of the United States.
Allure of a relaxed and carefree lifestyle
Coming back to the main question of what motivates Americans to opt for a home in the Caribbean, it is mainly the desire to get away from the stressful life of the U.S. cities. You go to the Caribbean on a vacation only with no worries of work. This is the perception most Americans have in their minds.
Possibility to live a more affordable life
There can be no two opinions about the fact that the mad rush of Americans to buy properties in the Caribbean has pushed the prices upwards. If you buy a property on popular Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, Aruba, Jamaica and St. Barths, you may find that prices have become exorbitant there. But the Caribbean is much bigger than most people assume they are. You can still find a place in the Caribbean to fulfill your dream of a life full of sun and sand that is quite affordable. One such destination is St. Maarten, a Dutch island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
More money in your pocket
One reason why many Americans dream of buying a property in the Caribbean and living there is because of them being tax havens. In most of these islands there is no capital gains tax. If you sell your property in the future, you are not required to pay any capital gains taxes to the local government, and this is a big advantage in the eyes of many Americans.
For the retirees or those approaching retirement, the perks of a laid back lifestyle coupled with gorgeous settings are too big to drop the idea of buying a property in the Caribbean.
Campaign raises more than $50,000 for staff in St. Maarten affected by recent hurricanes
LITTLE BAY — Divi Little Bay Beach Resort staff along with a local union representative gathered Monday, November 6, to receive checks from GoFundMe campaign donations.
Set up to assist employees in rebuilding their lives on St. Maarten following devastating hurricanes, the GoFundMe campaign has now raised more than $50,000. $49,025 of the donated funds — the amount in the campaign at the time checks were cut — were equally distributed amongst staff, with the exception of upper management, who chose to opt out.
“We thank everyone who donated from the bottom of our hearts,” said Madeleine Jacob, hostess and cashier at Divi Little Bay’s pureocean Restaurant.
Jacob says this money will help her family recover from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Irma and other storms.
“I lost my roof and lots of my belongings,” Jacobs said. “This will help with the rebuilding of my home. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
The GoFundMe campaign will remain open for anyone who still wishes to donate to the cause.
The resort is expected to reopen and welcome back guests in May 2018.
To see more photos with this article visit http://www.stmaartennews.com.
About Divi Resorts
Divi Resorts is the vacation expert of the Caribbean, with a collection of eight premium resorts spanning the five stunning Caribbean islands of Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, St. Croix, and St. Maarten. For more information on Divi Resorts, call 1-800-367-3484 or visit www.diviresorts.com.
The holidays are the busiest time for travel the entire year. People all over the world spend this time of year going from point A to point B in order to spend time with family, see friends, take a break, or do business. All the hustle and bustle that comes with this activity can lead to major stress for anyone trying to find their own way. But it doesn’t have to be too bad. With a little preparation you can go into your holiday vacation confident and secure with as little stress as possible.
Take Care of Gifts ASAP
With the luxury of the internet, gift giving is easier than ever. Take advantage of this crucial tool and knock all your gift shopping out as soon as possible. The best part is having the gifts shipped to your loved ones for you. They come already packaged in a box– think of all the time you will save not wrapping gifts! Plus, most online shops allow you to include a note or greeting as the gift giver. Get all your gifts sent out at least a week before your trip so you have one less thing to focus on and/or stress over.
Pack a Capsule Wardrobe
Whether you are going to visit family in another state or taking a sabbatical with your partner in a tropical locale, the last thing you want to worry about during your holiday travels is clothes. Curate a capsule wardrobe for your trip with pieces you can easily mix-and-match for quick and easy dressing.
Bonus: focus on packing your favorite, most most comfortable pieces to make your travels even more enjoyable. Clothes can actually impact our mood, so picking the pieces that you feel most comfortable in will help keep your spirits up while you are on the road.
Secure Your Home
Nothing can keep you from being in the present, enjoying yourself than worrying about what is happening at home. Ensure peace of mind with a security system that will monitor your home and property when you are not there. In addition to a security system, consider hiring a house sitter that can be there most of the time and make sure that you are not targeted by burglars during the holidays. If a house sitter isn’t an option, ask one of your neighbors to park their car in your driveway while you are way. Just the visual of someone possibly being at home can deter thieves.
Make Time for Your Health
Perhaps one of the most important thing to do to prevent stress and stress-related illness is taking care of you own well being. Exercise regularly to reduce cortisol— the hormone that spikes when you are stressed and gives you that anxious feeling. In return, physical activity boosts endorphins– neurotransmitters that help you feel relaxed and happy.
In addition to exercise, be sure to eat right during this busy time of year. Proper nutrition is important to maintain your health and stress levels. Eating well while traveling can be difficult for sure– and double that difficulty during the indulgent holiday season. The secret is finding balance. Resources like Eat This, Not That! can help you make smarter choices when it comes to your diet so you can enjoy your food responsibly.
The holidays can be stressful, but with the right amount of planning and a positive attitude you can enjoy them. Take care of gifts before your big travel date so you don’t have to worry about that responsibility. Have them shipped to the giftees so you don’t have to worry about lugging them around the country as you travel. Pack smart and comfortable– your clothes can have an impact on your stress levels. Make sure your home is safe by installing a security system and getting a house sitter if needed. Finally, take time for your physical health. Your mental wellbeing is directly connected to the physical, so taking care of one helps keep the other in tip-top shape.
Image by Pixabay
MARIGOT – The waterfront boulevard in Marigot is not what it used to be anymore after Hurricane Irma hit the place. Now it appears that two of the main attractions on this stretch – the French bakeries Sarafina and Le Divin – will not be rebuilt.
Le Divin has been completely obliterated by the monster hurricane and the debris is still exactly where it landed on September 6. Attempts to locate its owner, and to make arrangements for a cleanup, reportedly have failed so far.
It seems likely that the owner has simply left the island.
A bit further down on the Boulevard de France, French bakery Sarafina has also been wiped out… Click here to read the rest of the special report and to view the before and after pictures.
OYSTER POND/SIMPSON BAY — After the granting of permits to salvage operators active in Oyster Pond the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to monitor wreck removal for any environmental effects; “We have started to monitor and assist where possible in salvage operations that were granted their permit by Government for activities in Oyster Pond,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager, “but we are still waiting for the approval of large-scale salvage in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which is causing us some concern.”
Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Calls for Urgent Action for Wreck Removal in the Simpson Bay Lagoon
Although the Foundation has been involved in some preliminary work in the Simpson Bay Lagoon it is estimated that some 30,000 gallons of fuel and wastewater is being leaked into the environment; “While we understand the need to have everything in place we are urging for salvage works to start soon before the situation gets worse. Our request for assistance has largely been unanswered and we now are dependent on commercial salvage operators to clean up the wrecks. We are therefore urging that all technicalities and requirements be handled and the necessary permits be fast-tracked,” continued Bervoets.
The Foundation has been ensuring that oil spill containment equipment is being properly used in the Oyster Pond area; “We are not salvagers and will have to leave technical aspects of salvaging to the experts, but from an environmental point of view we are there to ensure that the ecosystem isn’t impacted more than it has already been. That is why we are urging, not only for the environment but also for the economy, that large scale salvage works commence soon in the Simpson Bay Lagoon,” concluded Bervoets.
Top photo caption: “Vessel Being Salvaged in Oyster Pond”