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Saint Maarten and Saint Martin: One Year After Irma

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© Sonesta St. Maarten A rendering of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Spa, which is slated to reopen on February 1. (Photo courtesy of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Spa)

By Joe Pike, TravelPulse

Aerial images of flattened St. Maarten/St. Martin homes, hotels and businesses were perhaps some of the most gut-wrenching memories in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

One year later, the images coming out of St. Maarten/St. Martin tell a much more positive story of a destination that didn’t waste any time to pick up the pieces and get back on its feet.

As we reach the one-year anniversaries of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, TravelPulse is here with the latest information about the progress the most-affected Caribbean islands have made since the storms ravaged a small portion of the region last September.

In the coming weeks, TravelPulse will tell you about the progress that has been made in St. Maarten/St. Martin, Puerto Rico,Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Barts, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And we kick off our “One Year After the Hurricanes” series with St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Here’s everything you need to know about the strides the sister-island destination has taken to restore its tourism product in the last year.

Hotel Openings and Reopenings

Sonesta St. Maarten Resorts recently announced that projected openings for the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Spa are scheduled for November 15, 2018, and February 1, 2019, respectively.

The former Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort is slated to open as a Planet Hollywood hotel in the second quarter of 2019. It will have 450 rooms, five restaurants, a 20,000 square-foot casino, a spa, and a beach club.

Also, the Maho Group and Sonesta St. Maarten Resorts are spearheading hospitality safety standards across the Caribbean region and beyond, by researching and implementing the latest engineering innovations and storm-resistant materials.

AMResorts announced that they would be opening a property on-island, replacing the former 350-room Riu Palace St. Martin. Slated to reopen in 2019 under the Secrets brand, the new property will undergo a $20 million renovation and will feature a variety of amenities including a rooftop pool, swim out suites, and the Unlimited-Luxury all-inclusive program.

As of today, there are just under 2,000 bookable rooms available across the entire island. There are 123 villas and condos that are open for business island-wide, boutique hotels and guest houses are ready to accommodate travelers, and several larger properties have conducted soft openings in order to welcome back guests.

Amongst the larger properties, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Simpson Bay Resorts & Marina and Oyster Bay Beach Resort all reopened their doors.

Additionally, the French-side Belmond La Samanna also announced its grand reopening for December 10. The 83-room hotel is currently taking reservations.

Airport and Flight Updates

All phases of repairs to the Princess Juliana International Airport are expected to be completed by 2020.

After that, the entire airport roof will be able to sustain hurricane wind forces of up to 185 miles per hour, according to St.Maarten/St. Martin tourism representatives.

As far as flight news goes, Sunwing announced that they'll be resuming their St. Maarten-bound service from Toronto and Montreal beginning on February 28.

In late July, JetBlue Airways announced that Saturday Mint flights to St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport from New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport will resume in February. Additionally, the airline will launch new Saturday Mint service to St. Maarten from Boston, also in February.

Beginning February 16, flights will depart JFK at 10:55 a.m. and land in St. Maarten at 3:52 p.m. with return flights taking off at 5:30 p.m. and landing back in New York at 9:07 p.m.

Mint flights from Boston to St. Maarten are also slated to launch February 16. Flights leave Boston at 7:10 a.m. and land in St. Maarten at 12:20 p.m. Return flights leave St. Maarten at 1:45 p.m. and land back in Boston at 5:17 p.m.

American Airlines will be adding a daily nonstop flight to St. Maarten from its hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) starting November 4, as well as a second daily nonstop from Miami effective December 19. Both new flights are currently bookable and will be operated by Airbus A319 aircraft with a capacity of 128 passengers.

JetBlue announced that they would begin offering direct service between Boston’s Logan International Airport and St. Maarten to begin November 3rd. Additionally, Air Canada will begin offering service between Toronto Pearson International Airport and The Friendly Island slated to begin on December 15.

As of today, two-thirds of all carriers that provided flights to and from St. Maarten's airport have resumed regular service. From the United States, travelers can fly to St. Maarten with United Airlines, American, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, and Seaborne Airlines. Service from Toronto is available on WestJet, and Dominican carrier Air Century and Panama-based Copa Airlines have returned as well.

Activities

More than 90 percent of all on-island activities are also available for guests to enjoy. Popular offerings at Aqua Mania Adventures, Flavors of St. Maarten, Rainforest Adventures, Lee’s Deep Sea Fishing, and the Topper’s Rhum Distillery are open to visitors.

For those looking to get a taste of St. Maarten’s famous cuisine, the vast majority of restaurants on the Dutch side are open, especially along Front Street, Boardwalk and Simpson Bay.

Cruise News

Port St. Maarten, has experienced an increase of traffic in the first half of 2018. A total of 733,666 cruise passengers visited the island between January 1 and June 30 on 230 individual cruise ship calls, reflecting a 15 percent increase in visitation. Port officials report they expect a stable off-season at Port St. Maarten and an even stronger 2018-2019 cruise season.

Keep visiting www.travelpulse.com in the coming weeks for similar updates on Puerto Rico, Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Barts and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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