PHILIPSBURG–The “grassroots” hotels forming the membership of St. Maarten Small Properties Association (SMSPA) are ready to welcome new and returning visitors, in particular their core market: Caribbean travellers.
Most of the properties have not suffered tremendous damage and are well on their way to recovery, Association President Nzinga Lake told The Daily Herald. “We are definitely on board to open for the tourist season as of November 1. We will be 100 per cent ready. We would definitely like to speak to some tour operators when they are ready for marketing.”
The small hotels are “patiently awaiting the return of scheduled commercial flights into the country. We have been reaching out to our Caribbean families … a lot of them are saying once the commercial flights are flying in, they are definitely coming back to shop and to our properties. A lot of them have checked on us,” she said.
Some 152 available rooms in the small inns and family-run hotels are already occupied by relief and recovery workers from home and abroad.
“The added value to St. Maarten of small properties like ours is that they are now housing the foreign experts and others who are helping with the recovery. We also were up and running within a matter of days facilitating the fragile economy and bringing back liveliness on the streets and neighbourhoods,” Lake said.
None of the 13 properties, representing some 230 rooms when fully functioning, has reduced or laid off staff, she said. “I know for the larger properties they have concerns about bringing in labour for their construction. For us, a lot of out labour is done here. We are families who use local contractors.
“We are resilient. We are a strong people and we are ready to serve our community in any way possible,” Lake said.