Category Archives: Tourism News

St. Maarten's tourism product in a post-Irma era - 7 parts series

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.

Angry Waves at Belair

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.

Part 2

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.

Damaged Cupecoy area

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.

Part 3

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.

Fort Louis overlooking Marigot waterfront

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.

Part 4

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.

Clara Reyes and students fully engaged

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.

Why Americans Like To Buy Property in The Caribbean?

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.

Cooper House from beach

GoFundMe Donations Distributed to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort Employees

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

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

Your Stress-Free Holiday Break

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

All French bakeries are gone from Marigot’s waterfront

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.


Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Monitors Salvage Operations in Oyster Pond and Simpson Bay

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”

SBwreck1Photo caption: “One of the vessels wrecked in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”

SBOilspillsGoogleEarthPhoto caption: “Google Earth Image showing fuel being leaked from two major marinas in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”


Summit Resort closes its doors after 44 years

GREAT BAY – The Summit Resort in Cupecoy is the first fatal victim of Hurricane Irma. After 44 years in business, the resort has definitively closed its doors. A bit further down the road on Cupecoy, the Ocean Club – scene of the most gruesome double murder in recent history, when the seriously disturbed Meyshane Johnson killed Thelma and Michael King on September 19, 2012 – is in such a bad shape that management has announced its closure until further notice.

Summit-owner Bruce Jakubovitz writes in a letter to his timeshare owners that there is “an enormous gap” between the estimated rebuilding costs and the limited insurance coverage and the limited revenue from timeshare and hotel operations.

Each timeshare-owner will receive a pro rata part of the insurance payment. “This is likely to be a low number given the sublimit imposed by our insurance carrier for damages caused by hurricanes,” Jakubovitz wrote.

The Summit Resort opened its doors 44 years ago, in 1973. This is how Jakubovitz describes the damages Hurricane Irma inflicted on his resort; “Some of the Summit’s buildings were flattened completely by the force of Hurricane Irma’s winds. All but one of the Summit’s two-story buildings had their second floors either partially or completely blown off. Our single-story buildings lost roofs and suffered other damage. The pool deck was completely blown away with pieces from it landing by our front entry gate. Our General Manager’s living quarters were destroyed as were the living quarters of our Head of Housekeeping. Our restaurant, bar, reception office, laundry facilities and maintenance building were each either destroyed or heavily damaged as well. There is not a single part of the Summit that has been spared from the destructive force of Hurricane Irma.”

When we visited the Summit Resort on Monday afternoon, general manager Evans was on site and she said that there is another component to the total destruction of the place. “After the hurricane we had about fifteen rooms that were in a reasonable shape. But then the looters came. They kicked in doors and took what they wanted. There was no police around.”

The plan is to clean up the debris. When that is done, the site will be fenced off. All employees have lost their job.

The Ocean Club has announced on its Facebook-page that the resort is closed until further notice and that members will be updated via email.

Oceans Club Cupecoy 20171023 - HH

Photo caption: The Ocean Club in Cupecoy is severely damaged. Photo Hilbert Haar.

Princess Juliana International SXM Airport Reopens after Hurricanes

NEW YORK, NY (October 9, 2017) – After damages sustained during Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Jose in September 2017, the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in Dutch St. Maarten will reopen to commercial flights on October 10, 2017. SXM is a critical airport for much of the Caribbean, and its return to active service will bring much-needed aid and tourism back to St. Maarten as well as neighboring islands.

Delta Airlines, Seaborne, Pawa Dominicana, Insel Air, and Winair will resume service at SXM on Oct. 10. Seaborne will be code sharing with American Airlines, JetBlue, and Delta. Additional airlines will announce their service in the coming days.

“While damages to our airport are extensive, we are incredibly pleased with the progress made to repair it,” said Director of Tourism Rolando Brison. “St. Maarten is both a friendly island and a resilient one, and we are excited to share our island with the world once again.”

SXM Airport roof repairThe airport will reopen in a phased approach. Employees of SXM Airport and volunteers have worked tirelessly, their dedication resulting in the reopening of the airport’s two smaller terminals. The main terminal is currently under repair, and its reopening anticipated mid-2018.

“My friends, trust in the process,” said Minister of Tourism Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher in an official statement. “Adversity gives birth to opportunity and struggle builds character: St. Maarten will rise again, better and stronger. ”

Additional information about the airport and tourism recovery efforts will be released as soon as it becomes available.

Symbolic t-shirts to depict ports are open

Philipsburg — Ministry TEATT on Friday announced that the first arrivals at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) on October 10 and at Port St. Maarten on November 11, will be greeted by staff of both strategic ports and personnel of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau in shirts with a clear message: St. Maarten is open for business. Or, to put it simple, “Yes, We’re Open! Several volunteers will also be present in the shirts.

The shirts depict an airplane for PJIA and a cruise ship for Port St. Maarten. Adorned in St. Maarten colors, the commemorative logo also features St. Maarten’s National bird the Brown Pelican, an outline of St. Maarten in the background, the latitude and longitude coordinates of St. Maarten and the hashtag #sxmstrong, made popular on social media in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The October 10 and November 11 dates also form part of the logo. Finally, St. Maarten’s area code “721” is emboldened in the middle of a symbol of a hurricane.

Rolando BrisonHead of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Rolando Brison said the shirts are expressions of pride over the re-opening of St. Maarten and its world class ports in the wake of devastating storms. “We want to acknowledge the resilience of our businesses and our people by means of this logo, particularly to show that the cruise and aviation sectors are open despite lots of work ahead,” Brison said.

He said both sectors have a lot of work still to do, but the message about St. Maarten on the international stage has to change. “The narrative has to change. STB will be working diligently with our international marketing partners to let the world know that we are on or way back up,” he said.

Brison reminded that although hotel inventory is low, there are still properties that can accommodate guests and more are working hard to be back online soon. “Doesn’t matter how many people are on flights come Tuesday, the point is there are people coming to St. Maarten. We want to welcome them back and say thank you, He added.

Airlift vital to recovery process St. Maarten

SXM Airport — Just as airlift is vital to St. Maarten’s tourism economy, so it is for the recovery process to normalize the situation on the island, to fly in aid and relief goods, food and water, to evacuate tourists and other temporary visitors, workers and their families and to offer an escape for those in urgent need of medical care, for those with young children and elderly family members and for those who have lost everything on the island during the passing of Hurricane Irma.

Although the SXM Airport was badly damaged, the clean up of the runway was quickly organized and military aircrafts, such as CC-130 Hercules aircrafts, and humanitarian flights were soon landing on the airport. The Dutch Marines moved quickly to put the airport under military command. The Minister of Justice approved a list of airlines that would be allowed to land at the airport to fly out passengers.

Luckily,Air Traffic Controller Tower SXM Airport with Coast Guard the air traffic control (ATC) tower did not incur any major damage. With the assistance of the ATC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, flights were quickly organized into SXM Airport. Military aircrafts could be seen landing daily into St. Maarten and many evacuation flights were executed. Even pets and other animals managed to be evacuated by caring travelers departing the island.

Many news and camera crews arrived on the island on military aircrafts. Initially, mainly from Curacao and Holland on Dutch Marine and Coast Guard aircrafts as his royal highness, the King of the Kingdom of The Netherlands arrived on St. Maarten on Monday night with the press in his entourage. Quickly, other press agencies, including CNN arrived on the island.

On Thursday, September 14th, a news crew from ABC News flew in from Puerto Rico on a private charter operated by Tradewind Aviation with the assistance of AirStMaarten and Halley Aviation Services. If St. Maarten was not already on the map, it is definitely now at the center of world with millions of viewers getting daily reports on the devastation caused by one of the most powerful hurricanes seen in the past 30 years with record-breaking storm statistics. The damage is already estimated to be well over 2,5 billion US dollars.

An image that will remained ingrained in the minds of many people is that of hundreds of people queuing up to be evacuated off the island. This situation has left many with mixed feelings ranging from anger to despair to sighs of relief. Long lines formed for days after the hurricane at the SXM Airport. The military exercised strict control over the situation and at no time did things get our of hand at the airport. So far all people stranded on the island have managed to be evacuated. Either via Curacao to The Netherlands or via San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the USA.

Local airline company Winair, despite having undergone complete devastation of its head offices at the SXM Airport leaving only the mangled remains of the structure behind, executed evacuation flights to Antigua for passengers connecting to the UK and also to St. Kitts and later to Saba and St. Eustatius.

Noteworthy, is the actions of the Dominican airline company, PAWA, that flew non-stop after the hurricane to fly in aid and relief goods and to evacuate and repatriate Dominicanos living on St. Maarten with their MD80 aircraft.

Other airlines operating evacuation flights were American Airlines, Jetblue and Delta Airlines. Also many private jet aircrafts were seen landing and taking off from the SXM Airport as well.

It is clear that the SXM Airport, despite the crippled infrastructure caused by the damages to the main terminal building’s arrival and departure halls, is playing a vital role in getting people out of the country and the necessary aid, help and relief into Hurricane Irma Damages SXM Airportthe island.

With the demand for more airlift in the form of military, humanitarian, commercial and private flights, the military and the local authorities will have to make all efforts to get the SXM Airport fully operational again and this port will be critical to the recovery and rebuilding process St. Maarten will have to undergo to allow the flow of cargo, tourists and US dollars back into the country and into the island’s local economy.

Click here to see more related photos on our travel partner’s Facebook page.