Wednesday,  April 24, 2019  4:16 pm

Hotels reopen, post-Irma, in "safe and clean” St. Martin


Hotels reopen, post-Irma, in "safe and clean” St. Martin
Valérie Damaseau, Vice-President of French St. Martin’s Territorial Council and President of the St. Martin Office de Tourism, seen here at Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Jamaica last week.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

It’s been a long road to recovery for St. Martin/Maarten after Hurricane Irma struck the dual-nation island in September 2017.

What many called the most powerful Atlantic storm of the century, Irma battered the Caribbean island with winds reaching up to 182 miles per hour, a force strong enough to tear sections off the roof of St. Martin’s famed Princess Juliana International Airport.

The road to recovery

Valérie Damaseau, the first vice president of French St. Martin’s Territorial Council and president of the St. Martin Office de Tourism, says the storm damaged ninety-five per cent of the island’s infrastructure.

But Damaseau wants to make one thing clear: St. Martin is on a clear path to recovery and is open for visitors.

“Yes, we have electricity, water and supplies. Our roads are clear,” Damaseau told PAX in an impromptu interview last week at Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “We’re working hand-in-hand with our Dutch counterpart in the rebuilding of the destination.”

Cruise business flourishing

A popular cruise port, the Dutch side of St. Maarten still reached its two millionth passenger for 2018, a projection that exceeded many post-Irma expectations.

Despite widespread damage from Hurricane Irma, St. Maarten, photographed here last November, still reached its two millionth passenger for 2018

“Who would have known that after the hurricane we’d still be part of the itinerary? For that I’m very grateful and very proud,” Damaseau said, noting that the island has more than 200 restaurants open for business.

Last December, on the French side of St. Martin, the secluded resort Belmond La Samanna re-opened its doors and a new Secrets resort is scheduled to open on the island by the end of 2019.

Damaseau’s message to Canadian travel agents? “St. Martin is safe, it’s clean,” she said. “We’re doing our best, and [your clients] will have the time of their lives.”

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