After a devastating 2017 hurricane season, St Maarten has bounced back to be named 2020’s “Most Innovative Caribbean Destination” by Caribbean Journal.
Nearly three years ago, Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. The storms 182 mph winds knocked off portions of the roof of Princess Juliana International Airport, and about 90 percent of the country’s buildings suffered some amount of damage.
Despite the fact that the category 5 hurricane ruined homes, hotels, and resorts, many locals were eager to get back to work after conditions on the island became stable. However, for those working in the tourism industry, there was no workplace to get back to. Resorts and vacation villas were in no condition to welcome guests, nor was the crippled airport able to receive flights.
Repairs and restoration
Nevertheless, St Maarten Tourist Bureau and the country’s resilient residents worked tirelessly to get the nation (and the tourism industry) back on its feet. The airport was ready for action again after just a month of repairs. Cleaning up the cruise ship ports was a priority, due to the fact that they represent a crucial source of income. Then came time to rebuild damaged hotels, villas, and resorts.
But perhaps the main problem faced by St Maarten wasn’t the damaged buildings, but the island’s damaged reputation. How could the nation entice tourists to vacation there, once they had seen so many photos of wrecked restaurants and debris-covered beaches?
That’s where the Tourist Bureau came in, launching an impressive strategy to market St Maarten as a well-rounded (and well-repaired) destination. The campaign highlighted the country as a great place to go zip-lining, enjoy fine dining, and even go island hopping. The nation also sought to establish Princess Juliana International Airport as a regional hub for flights to many nearby Caribbean islands.
“This gives us the ability to promote the region as an island-hopping area so visitors can take advantage of all the different islands and what they have to offer,” said Marla Chemont of the St. Maarten Tourism Office, according to Forbes. “That is why we get so many repeat visitors because there are so many different experiences.”
Hard work pays off
Not only is tourism booming and better than ever in St Maarten, but it has also expanded considerably since 2018. Tourist arrivals increased by a miraculous 100 percent and upwards in 2019. There are now new restaurants, beach bars, villas, and hotels. In fact, the travel scene in St Maarten has changed so much, the internet’s calling it a “tourism renaissance”.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that Caribbean Journal decided to bestow the “Most Innovative Caribbean Destination” title on St Maarten. However, there are plenty of other reasons to visit “The Friendly Island”. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Sint Maarten shares the island with another nation, Saint Martin. While St Maarten is decidedly Dutch, Saint Martin boasts French flair. You can travel to the “French side” by simply driving over the open border in your rental car.
- There are 37 beaches open to the public. Some are extremely unique and memorable, such as Maho Beach, where planes fly right over head as they land at the airport.
- St Maarten has fabulous food, friendly folks, and favorable weather!
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