Published On: Sun, Apr 5th, 2020

New York Times foresees “months of duress and uncertainty”

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Photo caption: Holland House Beach Hotel also completely shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

PHILIPSBURG – Most of the 51 units at the Princess Heights Boutique Condo Hotel in Oyster Pond are empty these days but its partial owner, former Minister of Public Health Emil Lee, says in an article published in the New York Times that the business will be able to weather the corona-crisis until the end of the year. “If it goes past Christmas then you need to look at how to restructure.”

For other businesses in St. Maarten, Lee is more pessimistic: “Past four months, I don’t know how they’ll survive. This is the first time I have seen hotels shut down because of a lack of business. Even after (Hurricane) Irma we managed to maintain some level of economic activity.”

Lee told the Times he hopes for a speedy disbursement of funds from the World Bank Trust Fund. Eyes are obviously also on the Netherlands for a bailout. “For now,” the Times states, “residents are preparing for months of duress and uncertainty.”

Ricardo Perez, the manager of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort echoes that sentiment. “You got to hunker down, you got to be fiscally and financially responsible, you got to cut down your expenses to a bare minimum,” he is quoted as saying. “Who knows what the industry is going to look like coming out of this? Is this a fatal blow? Or is this a blow that will take a long time to come out of?”

The article also quotes SHTA-President Lorraine Talmi and her reaction does not exude a lot of confidence either:  “We’ve been crunching numbers here and we’re terrified,” she is quoted as saying with a reference to the business survey among 600 businesses that shows how – in a best-case scenario – 45 percent of the labor force in the private sector will be laid off within the next three to six months.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth. We were on the trajectory to get back together (after Hurricane Irma – ed.), and now that’s not going to be possible.”

The times also quoted Johnson JohnRose, a spokesman for the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization. “A hurricane might destroy a lot of your infrastructure but it’s an event and it ends; you begin the recovery almost immediately. This one, you don’t know when it’s ending.”

Frank Comito, director of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association in Miami, also paints a dark picture of the near future with the prediction that hotel occupancy will soon drop to zero across the Caribbean.

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In October 2019, Holland House Beach Hotel general manager Paul Boetekees explained in an interview with StMaartenNews.com how when Hurricane Irma hit on September 6, 2017, Holland House lost its entire fourth floor to the monster storm. “But the process of restarting the hotel began immediately afterwards.” Boetekees said about how his hotel managed to built back better on its own directly after the devastating hurricane. This time the general sentiment about this corona-crisis shutdown is that no one has an idea how long it will last. As the New York Times indicated in its article, we could be seeing “months of duress and uncertainty”.


Related articles:
New York Times article: “Empty hotels. Idled tour buses. The pandemic is devastating tourism.
Business survey paints dark scenario
How Holland House built back better on its own after Hurrricane Irma