MEXICO CITY There were major hurricanes, and the global financial crisis of 2008. There was 9/11, and an array of regional health scares, from SARS to Zika.
But during the decades that hes been involved in the tourism business in the Caribbean island nation of Sint Maarten, Emil Lee has never seen anything remotely like the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A switch got flipped, said Mr. Lee, whose family manages a hotel on Sint Maarten, which shares a 34-square-mile island with the French territory Saint-Martin. And now theres no tourism.
The global travel and tourism industry is in peril.
Layoffs in the sector are mounting at the stunning rate of one million jobs a day, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, an industry group based in London, with as many as 75 million jobs at immediate risk. The industry could lose as much as $2.1 trillion in business by the end of the year, the council said.
Borders have been shut, planes idled, cruise ships docked, tour buses parked and hotels, restaurants, bars, theaters and museums shuttered. Tourist sites that only several weeks ago were teeming with visitors are now eerily still.
In the Caribbean, the impact is already being felt particularly deeply. No other region of the world depends so heavily on tourism.
And among the regions countries and territories, Sint Maarten, a mostly autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, stands out. Tourism accounts for more than 80 percent of its gross domestic product, according to the latest statistics from the World Tourism Organization, an agency of the United Nations.
At the start of the year, the leaders of the nations tourism industry had plenty of reason to be hopeful about the months ahead.
The country, which has a population of about 41,000, had almost regained its balance after being pummeled by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The storm damaged most of the nations buildings and crippled the airport, before plowing across the Caribbean and wrecking other islands in its path.
But after two years of energetic rebuilding, Sint Maartens tourism sector registered a strong December and January, and officials expected 2020 to be a good year.
Then the pandemic took root and the flow of tourists to the Caribbean and elsewhere dried up.
In mid-March, the government in Sint Maarten started barring visitors from the United States and Europe. A week later, all incoming flights carrying passengers were banned, effectively cutting off the life blood of the local economy.
Hotels on the island now stand empty, save for the odd tourist who decided that remaining in Sint Maarten was preferable to returning home. The once-bustling waterfront is quiet, and the beaches are still.
Restaurants have closed for all but takeout and delivery, nonessential businesses have been ordered shut and there is an overnight curfew.
Weve been crunching numbers here, and were terrified, said Lorraine Talmi, board president of the Sint Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association.
Based on a survey of nearly 600 businesses, she said, the group estimates that some 45 percent of the private sector labor force in Sint Maarten will be laid off within three to six months. And that is a best-case scenario.
Many business owners in the tourism industry have few, if any, cash reserves left after burning through savings to pay for rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Irma, Ms. Talmi said.
Its a real kick in the teeth, she said. We were on the trajectory to get back together, and now thats not going to be possible.
Mr. Lee said his familys 51-unit property, Princess Heights Hotel, which it partly owns, was still open, though mostly dormant. Several state workers from the Netherlands have continued to occupy a handful of units, but the remainder of the hotels rooms are dark.
While most hotels in Sint Maarten have been forced to lay off staff, Princess Heights has not. But its workers hours have been reduced.
This is the first time Ive seen hotels shut down because of lack of business, said Mr. Lee, a former minister of health, labor and social affairs for Sint Maarten. Even after Irma we managed to maintain some level of economic activity.
He thinks the Princess Heights can weather the downturn through the end of the year. If it goes past Christmas, then you need to look at how you restructure, he said.
Most businesses in Sint Maarten, however, may not be so fortunate.
Past four months, Mr. Lee said, I dont know how theyll survive.
Similar hardship is sweeping the rest of the Caribbean, and it is made still worse by the unpredictable nature of the crisis.
With a hurricane, it might damage or destroy a lot of your infrastructure, but its an event, and it ends, and you begin the recovery almost immediately, said Johnson JohnRose, a communications specialist for the Caribbean Tourism Organization, a trade group based in Barbados. This one you dont know when its ending.
Across the region, hotel occupancy has plunged in the past several weeks and is expected to drop nearly to zero by the end of this week, said Frank J. Comito, chief executive and director general of the Miami-based Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.
Some governments are scrambling to help cushion the impact on the tourism sector.
In Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett, the minister of tourism, said the government was planning to support businesses and employees through cash transfers, special grants, loan payment deferrals and new lines of credit.
We are aware of the challenges and ripple effects of this pandemic as activities grind to a halt and questions surrounding job security arise, he said.
On Mexicos Caribbean coast, where scores of hotels have closed and thousands of workers have been laid off, the state government of Quintana Roo has started delivering basic supplies and food baskets to those who recently lost their jobs, said Rafael Ortega Ramrez, president of the chamber of commerce in the resort city of Cancn.
The government and the chamber of commerce are also trying to help workers secure severance packages from their former employers. And Mexicos federal government is working on its own relief plan, which may provide loans to small businesses in both the formal economy and the informal economy.
Its like we had an open faucet from which a massive water stream used to come and now it has been shut down, and we only have a few drops coming out, Mr. Ortega said.
In Sint Maarten, some leaders in the tourism sector are floating ideas for securing relief for the community.
Mr. Lee said he hoped the World Bank, which is managing a trust fund for the post-hurricane reconstruction on his island, can speed up disbursements. Others are looking to the government of the Netherlands for a fresh bailout.
But for now, residents are preparing for months of duress and uncertainty.
You got to hunker down, you got to be fiscally and financially responsible, you got to cut down your expenses to a bare minimum, said Ricardo Prez, general manager of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort and the Coral Beach Club.
Who knows what the industry is going to look like coming out of this? he said. Is this a fatal blow? Or is this a blow that will take a long time to come out of?
Paulina Villegas contributed reporting.
The rest is here:
- Will Attending Medical School In The Caribbean Hurt My Chances Of Becoming A U.S. Doctor? - Forbes - May 11th, 2020
- Sandals Planning to Reopen Most of Its Caribbean Resorts in June - Caribbean Journal - May 11th, 2020
- The Island of Nevis Says It Is Coronavirus Free Caribbean Journal - Caribbean Journal - May 11th, 2020
- Taiwan's Medical Diplomacy in the Caribbean: A Final Stand Against Beijing? - The Diplomat - May 11th, 2020
- Ralph Jimenez: Corruption and hopelessness in the Caribbean - Concord Monitor - May 11th, 2020
- Caribbean tourism has been decimated by COVID-19. But the private sector can cushion the blow - World Economic Forum - May 11th, 2020
- Road to Recovery: Disney Plans, Plus Restored Flights to the Caribbean - TravelPulse Canada - May 11th, 2020
- The coast may be clear now, but sargassum is heading from the Caribbean to Florida shores, scientists warn - News-Press - May 11th, 2020
- The Caribbean can supply the US with ginger year-round - FreshPlaza.com - May 11th, 2020
- How Sandals Is Adapting Its Caribbean Resorts Caribbean Journal - Caribbean Journal - May 11th, 2020
- Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Could Be Eyeing a New Heroine - Gizmodo - May 11th, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean 6: Did Disney pick Karen Gillan for new lead? - Deseret News - May 11th, 2020
- North America: The curse of the Caribbean - IPS Journal - May 11th, 2020
- Research Shows Transplanting Staghorn Corals Could Help The Species Recover In The Caribbean - National Parks Traveler - May 11th, 2020
- I'm Quarantined on a Yacht in the Caribbean. It's Not What You Think - Fodor's Travel - May 11th, 2020
- Royal Caribbean Owned Cruise Ships Gather at Private Island - Cruise Hive - May 11th, 2020
- Do you know the volcanoes of the Caribbean? - Loop News Barbados - May 3rd, 2020
- The Perfect Sun Shirts for the Caribbean - Caribbean Journal - May 3rd, 2020
- Hurricanes Are Reshaping Evolution Across the Caribbean - The New York Times - May 3rd, 2020
- From The Bahamas to St Thomas, the Caribbean's Most Famous Cocktails - Caribbean Journal - May 3rd, 2020
- Caribbean Hotels Advised to Replace Buffet Dinners and Minibars - Travel Agent - May 3rd, 2020
- Latin America and the Caribbean Region COVID-19 Situation Report No. 2 - Argentina - ReliefWeb - May 3rd, 2020
- Hold on Tight: Researchers Say Caribbean Lizards Grow Bigger Toes to Survive Hurricanes - The Weather Channel - May 3rd, 2020
- Pirates Of The Caribbean 6: Release Date, Plot, And Get All The Latest Updates We Have So Far - World Top Trend - May 3rd, 2020
- Puerto Rico earthquake: 5.5 magnitude quake rocks Caribbean - is there a tsunami warning? - Express.co.uk - May 3rd, 2020
- Escape To The Caribbean With These Soulful Recipes - Essence - May 3rd, 2020
- One Photographer Documents the Lives of Schoolchildren in the Caribbean - AnOther Magazine - May 3rd, 2020
- Heres Everything You Know So Far About Pirates Of Caribbean 6 - World Top Trend - May 3rd, 2020
- Port of New Orleans gains new Evergreen service offering connections to the Caribbean - Container Management - May 3rd, 2020
- European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean: joining efforts against the coronavirus - OnCubaNews - May 3rd, 2020
- A Rockefeller Resort in the Caribbean Is Restored to Its Rustic Glory - Yahoo Lifestyle - May 3rd, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Every Main Character, Ranked by Sword-Fighting Skills - Screen Rant - May 3rd, 2020
- Royal Caribbean: Best of a Challenged Bunch, but Thats not Saying Much - Yahoo Finance - May 3rd, 2020
- Protecting the Caribbean's most vulnerable people in the face of COVID-19: A UN Resident Coordinator blog - UN News - April 2nd, 2020
- How A Little Island In The Caribbean Sea Is Standing Up To The Goliath Of Coronavirus - Forbes - April 2nd, 2020
- How COVID-19 Has Affected the Caribbean and Latin America - NBC 6 South Florida - April 2nd, 2020
- CBP Reminds Boaters of Reporting Requirements in the Caribbean to Slow COVID-19 Spread - HSToday - April 2nd, 2020
- Caribbean Moment: A Perfect Sandbar in The Bahamas - Caribbean Journal - April 2nd, 2020
- Corona Around the Caribbean - The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer - April 2nd, 2020
- Caribbean Moment: In Saint Lucia, a Journey to the Pitons - Caribbean Journal - April 2nd, 2020
- Around the Caribbean...Around the Caribbean...Around the Caribbean - Jamaica Observer - April 2nd, 2020
- Customs and Border Protection Reminds Boaters of Reporting Requirements in Caribbean - St, Thomas Source - April 2nd, 2020
- 24 Movies That Will Take You to the Caribbean Right Now - Caribbean Journal - April 2nd, 2020
- Take a mini-break in the Caribbean without leaving your house - Lonely Planet Travel News - April 2nd, 2020
- Are You Ready to Buy Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL? - Motley Fool - April 2nd, 2020
- Caribbean nationals among thousands of COVID-19 deaths - Caribbean Life - April 2nd, 2020
- Caribbean Map / Map of the Caribbean - Maps and ... - March 31st, 2020
- Around the Caribbean... Around the Caribbean...Around the Caribbean... - Jamaica Observer - March 31st, 2020
- Helping the Caribbean in a Pandemic | Therese Turner-Jones - Caribbean360.com - March 31st, 2020
- CHTA: The Caribbean will resurface stronger in tourism - Dominican Today - March 31st, 2020
- Captain Lee From 'Below Deck' Expresses Concern the Caribbean Will Be 'Hit Hard' by Coronavirus - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - March 31st, 2020
- Trinidad Records Third Death from COVID-19 - caribbeannationalweekly.com - March 31st, 2020
- On the Trail of James Bond in the Caribbean, From Jamaica to Nassau - Caribbean Journal - March 31st, 2020
- Caribbean Map / Map of the Caribbean - Maps and Information ... - March 26th, 2020
- Caribbean Must Prepare Against Food Shortages because of COVID-19 - caribbeannationalweekly.com - March 26th, 2020
- Coronavirus Threatens Tourism Industry In The Caribbean - International Business Times - March 26th, 2020
- COVID-19 Pandemic and Latin America and the Caribbean: Time for Strong Policy Actions - International Monetary Fund - March 26th, 2020
- COVID-19 Watch: Caribbean islands surge past 750 confirmed cases of coronavirus - Antigua Observer - March 26th, 2020
- 10 Movies To Watch If You Love Pirates Of The Caribbean - Screen Rant - March 26th, 2020
- Reinvigorating Economic Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean: Can deep trade agreements help? - International Banker - March 26th, 2020
- Caribbean update on COVID-19 situation in the region - eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News - March 26th, 2020
- Around the Caribbean... Around the Caribbean... Around the Caribbean - Jamaica Observer - March 26th, 2020
- Government urged to halt implementation of public charge rule against Caribbean immigrants - NYCaribNews - March 26th, 2020
- Five Caribbean words that were spawned by coronavirus - Loop News Cayman - March 26th, 2020
- Virus: Sandals Closing All 19 Caribbean Resorts - The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer - March 26th, 2020
- The Cruise Industry Pressured Caribbean Islands Amid Coronavirus Concerns - The Intercept - March 16th, 2020
- Coronavirus-hit cruise ship in diplomatic scramble to find somewhere to dock - CNN - March 16th, 2020
- 5 Trending Food Destinations in the Caribbean - Caribbean Journal - March 16th, 2020
- Punta Cana has 9 of the 20 best family resorts in the Caribbean - Dominican Today - March 16th, 2020
- A Destination for All Ages in the Caribbean - TravelPulse - March 16th, 2020
- The 10 Best Pink Sand Beaches in the Caribbean - Caribbean Journal - March 16th, 2020
- The Best All-Inclusive Private-Island Destinations - Caribbean Journal - March 16th, 2020
- How the deadly coronavirus brought an industry to its knees: The 'cruise lines 9/11' - CNBC - March 16th, 2020
- Joanna Lumley's Hidden Caribbean locations and how to recreate her glamorous trip - Mirror Online - March 16th, 2020
- 14 Parish, a Caribbean restaurant with more than 100 rums, is coming to 53rd Street - Hyde Park Herald - March 16th, 2020
- Canceled: Caribbean Night on the horizon at the Opera House - PenBayPilot.com - March 16th, 2020
- Why Royal Caribbean's digital overhaul is safe from the coronavirus - Business Insider Nordic - March 16th, 2020
- How Will COVID-19 Affect Economies of Latin America & the Caribbean? - Havana Times - March 16th, 2020
- Pirates of the Caribbean 3: Why Chow Yun-Fat's Role Was Reduced in China - Screen Rant - March 16th, 2020
- 5 Caribbean Islands Where You Can Go Beyond the Beach - The New York Times - March 6th, 2020