Spoiler alert: The Four Seasons will get even better, Statia is adding rooms, and stricken islands seem to be recovering faster than this reporter would have predicted.
“We are green, genuine, tranquil, exclusive, charming, romantic, and historic,” said Devon Liburd, director of sales and marketing for the Nevis Tourism Authority, and a few minutes later he added “culinary” to that list. The biggest news on this connoisseurs’ island is that the Four Seasons Nevis, which has a new general manager, “will begin a 3-year enhancement of all 196 rooms, suites, and public areas. It will be phased in so that the hotel will remain open.” All told, added Liburd, “Nevis has 400 hotel rooms plus houses and villas.”
The one problem Nevis faces this season is a decreased load factor on Seaborne flights from San Juan and United’s WinAir codeshare flights from St. Maarten, at least in the near future. That won’t be a deal-breaker, though, because American, Delta, and US Airways fly to St. Kitts from several major markets, including New York and Miami.
Liburd called attention to his island’s festivals, such as the Nov. 12th triathlon, the annual St. Kitts Cross Channel Swim (March 25), the intimate Nevis Blues Festival (April 13-14), and the Nevis Mango and Food Festival in early July. Then he cited a statistic that should bring joy to any food-crazy traveler: “We have over 45 varieties of mango.”
St. Eustatius aka Statia
Here’s an island with even fewer rooms than Nevis—175—but that’s about to change, said Charles Lindo, director of tourism at the St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation. He expects another 25 rooms soon, and an additional 50 may be in the works. Smiling, he asked the press to “let folks know that we exist.”
Even if St. Eustatius’ room stock goes up to 250 rooms, “tranquility is the nature of the beast” in this prime destination for fans of nature and diving. Statia is the sort of island where, he said, “You can leave your car open, and a person will close the car for you.”
Dutch St. Maarten
“The not-so-good news is that we’ve lost 70 percent of our hotel and timeshare inventory on the Dutch side,” said Rolando Bryson, speaking to the media at SOTIC via a remote hookup from St. Maarten. On the other hand, American, Delta, Seaborne, and other airlines resumed commercial flights Oct. 10, and in November, JetBlue will serve SXM again. “This is important not just for St. Maarten,” Bryson noted, “but because of the airport’s hub function.”
He estimated the damage to be “at least $1 billion.” The Sonestas and the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa were hit especially hard. Nevertheless, said Bryson, “Sonesta is committed to reopen as soon as possible; maybe some rooms will open by the end of this year. The Westin will open early next year.”
But there’s good news, too: “The damage to the airport was not structural so much as electronic. The power station and water station have restored service to more than half the island. Beach chairs and vendors are back at Mullet Bay Beach,” he said. “The harbor fared relatively well, and one of the two piers came through intact. Royal Caribbean wants to resume cruising here, maybe Nov. 11th.”
And this just in: The new St. Maarten Rockland Estate eco-park, which will have the world’s steepest zipline, a museum, and other attractions, will surprise the nay-sayers by debuting in November. In early March, the annual Heineken Regatta will be held as originally scheduled.
French St. Martin
“September 6th was one of the worst natural disasters in our history. Our tourism industry has been severely shaken,” admitted Valarie Dameseu, president of (French) St. Martin Tourism. However, she noted, “there are clear signs of recovery. Roads have been cleared; 80 percent of households have electricity, and grocery stores and gas stations are now well-provisioned. Our airport opened Sept. 21, and Juliana, Oct. 10.
“We expect our first clientele at the beginning of 2018, and we expect a normal 2018-19 winter season.” When asked about Grand Case, which many view as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, she gave an upbeat reply: “Some restaurants are focused on re-opening February 18th, and the [famous and beloved] Sky’s the Limit lolo is already open.” She concluded, “We guarantee that we will begin rebuilding.”