Watch: Sint Maarten Chamber President Benjamin Ortega Talks Business Environment, Innovation, and Inclusion

On my recent trip to Sint Maarten I interviewed the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI), Benjamin Ortega. Sint Maarten is certainly a dynamic tourist destination, but it’s also a place that welcomes new businesses that are seeking to establish themselves in the community.

During our time together, we discussed several topics about business in Sint Maarten. Here are just a few of the key takeaways.

  • The recovery following Hurricane Irma is still underway. While many more businesses were open in 2019 compared to 2018, the increased competition has led to some businesses not doing as well.
  • Tourism numbers in 2019 still lag behind 2015 and 2016 highs, when overnight tourists exceeded 500,000 and cruise tourists came in over 2 million.
  • Cruise traffic has been reduced by as much as 10-20% by the cruise operators in 2019/20 season, which continues to put a strain on local businesses struggling to rebuild following Irma.
  • With large hotels like Westin and Royal Palm still not reopened, overnight capacity continues to be at a reduced level. Royal Palm could be reopened by this summer, if not sooner.
  • Local businesses continue to look at innovative ways to increase business by holding special events and networking on social media.

Sint Maarten withstood a direct hit from one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded. If you travel there today you’ll see an island that has undergone an incredible transformation since that fateful day in September 2017. But there is still a long way to go before the island reaches a full economic recovery. That happens with more tourists, more cruise ships, more flights and more overnight accommodations.

We thank Benjamin Ortega and the entire Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sint Maarten for sharing their time and thoughts on the local business environment. Please be sure to follow COCI on Facebook and on Linkedin to stay connected with the local business community in Sint Maarten.

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Jon Ferlise

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited to celebrate my 40th birthday in May of 2009. Since then, I've spent most birthdays there, and have visited countless other times getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website that I started to support humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. There was no plan, it just evolved as I witnessed the devastation that Irma caused the island and the huge need to communicate and disseminate information about what had happened and how people could help support this island and its people.

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