“We were just starting to come back, to come back from Irma, then Covid.” She was not complaining, just sharing. Mike and I were sitting at the bar at La Rosa, a well-loved Italian restaurant In Sint Maarten, eating a light snack, and chatting with the staff. We were the only ones in the restaurant. This is more a factor of the season, the fact that this is the low season and hurricane season, than Covid. But there may also be a Covid factor. The island, now both the French side, St Martin, and the Dutch side, Sint Maarten, are listed at a Level 4 risk factor, related to travel. When Mike and I left the U.S., our side of the island, the Dutch side, was listed at a Level 3 risk factor. That changed to a Level 4 a few days after we arrived. We would probably not have come had it been at Level 4. So far, we see no difference from Level 3 to Level 4. Masks and social distancing are required. While there has been a mandatory 8pm curfew on the French side for a couple of weeks, that has not been the case on the Dutch side. Regardless, Mike and I are in by 8pm, which is more due to our age than Covid!
Mike and I have been coming to the beautiful island of Sint Maarten-St Martin for twenty-one years, usually for two weeks each year. We have seen many changes in these years, some good, some not. We were here when Hurricane Irma hit on September 6, 2017. You can read about that in my blogs about that experience at http://www.fralixgroup.com, as well as in the book I wrote about it, Changing Me from the Inside Out: My Hurricane Irma Experience on St. Maarten and Other Life Changing Events, published in 2018.
We usually come to the island in late August and are here until early September. We have come at other times, including last April when we came for our anniversary. The island is always beautiful. The juxtaposition of the mountains and the water is breathtaking. That was one of my earliest memories of the island, and every time I am here, I am spellbound by that all over again. The island’s natural beauty is unparalleled. Hurricanes have not changed that. Covid will not change that.
Despite hurricanes and Covid, the people of Sint Maarten-St Martin remain resilient and full of grace. Their economy depends heavily on tourism, and specifically tourism from the United States. Just when tourism was rebounding from Hurricane Irma, Covid hit. Travel was devastated all over the world from Covid in 2019 until 2020, then it began to rebound. Then the Delta variant occurred, and tourism took another hit. We can’t really predict what will happen to tourism in the foreseeable future. But I believe we can predict how the people of St Martin-Sint Maarten will respond to the ongoing challenges of the assaults to their economy of natural disasters.
The people of this lovely island will come to work, even if their restaurant is empty. They have no governmental bailout. They will not be sitting home collecting unemployment. They will be serving their customers, even though there are less customers to serve. We will not find them complaining. They are grateful for the people who continue to come and look forward to their economy returning to prosperity. They see signs of that, with cruise ships returning.
Resilience and grace are behaviors that best describe the lovely people of Sint Maarten-St Martin. We can learn a lot from them. We need to help them rebuild their economy, not because they depend on us, but because the beauty of their island is worthy of our attention.