The Caribbean island of St. Maarten was one of the places hardest hit by Hurricane Irma and the island is proving its spirit which has been summed up by the hashtag #sxmstrong. Many people turned to social media to share their support after Hurricane Irma using the hashtag #sxmstrong, and since then the popularity has grown. The slogan reinforces the determination of the government of St. Maarten and its people during their recovery and rebuilding process.
More than 80% of St. Maarten’s utilities are back, 70% of Philipsburg’s Front Street is restored, and its beaches are in the process of being cleaned and sanitised according to port officials.
Up to 80% of St. Maarten’s water-based tours are also ready, along with 55% to 60% of the land-based tours, with another 15% to 20% expected to be back up over the next three months.
Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas is set to visit the island on Dec 17 and will become the first cruise ship back on the island since the devastion caused by Hurricane Irma. Additionally, Carnival Cruise Line will resume calls starting Jan. 15 with Carnival Sunshine.
‘Ninety percent of our economy depends on tourism. Our people understand the importance of getting the ships back. We’re strong. We’re resilient,’ said Alexander Gumbs, business development officer, Port St. Maarten.
St. Maarten also became the first destination to partner with the FCCA for the association’s million-dollar media campaign, ‘The Caribbean Is Open.’
‘They have worked around the clock to reopen for tourism, and we look forward to showcasing those actions, along with the amazing products and friendly smiles awaiting visitors, to help inject a needed economic boost,’ FCCA president Michele Paige said.
‘We have worked tirelessly to reopen our shores to welcome visitors back to St. Maarten,’ St. Maarten Minister of Tourism Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher said, ‘and this campaign will get our message out to the world that we are ready.’
Irma had a ‘profound impact on our entire country,’ Van Kooten said. ‘What stands out is the resilience of the people. We said “Don’t sit and cry. Get on your feet and do it.” The cruise business is vital to St. Maarten. Everyone understands the sooner it comes back, the better.’
Gumbs also expressed St. Maarten’s gratitude for the relief efforts and support of its cruise line partners and said the destination wants to ensure it exceeds their expectations.
‘What you saw two months ago [on the news] is not what it is today,’ Van Kooten said. ‘It’s like a different place. Slowly but surely we’re getting our message out.’