photo: Esther Henry

THE BOTTOM – Post-Hurricane Irma, the business community on Saba slowly begins to receive tourists back to their respective companies. But companies continue to face financial burdens.

With the timing of the holiday season, the business community claims to suffer from the poor communication and execution plans from the local government. “Dutch ministries, local government, and the Chamber of Commerce organized meetings to address the private sector’s issues. However, we haven’t heard anything yet about the governments promised extra funds. I’ve applied for a quick loan with low interest to help with construction plans”, eco accommodations owner Andries Bonnema states.

Dive Center owner Lynn Costenaro about the promised extra funds for the business community on Saba

Dive Center owner Lynn Costenaro: “Returned customers and homeowners are the most common clients right now. Normally, once new tourists come on the island, they are impressed by our beauty and want to come back.”

“To avoid or even decrease risks, expenditure and physical loss, the government should perhaps think about investing in expanding the harbour or purchase equipment to dock boats safely ashore”, Costenaro stated.

Businesses are trying what they can to survive. Costenaro: “I’ve attended a trade show regardless of the financial situation, increased the social media coverage, partnered with a company in St. Maarten and made deals with the tour operators to increase our bookings.”

Bonnema voiced: “We are receiving a lot of nearby islanders such as St. Maarten who wants a break. International travelers also stayed during the holidays. Before the hurricane, we informed guests to leave and after hurricane guests are notified of construction on site, noting the price drop per night is expected.”

New hurricane season
Hurricane predictors and meteorologists are analyzing 21 possible hurricanes for the 2018 hurricane season. The Climate Forecast Applications Network predicts an 80 percent probability of an above-normal 2018 season. “Before Hurricane Irma, we were looking to add another person to our team with a small company like ours, however this position is on hold until we can get everything back on track. We lost two cottages that are currently under construction”, Bonnema feares.

Restaurant owner Bastiaan Janssens, expresses: “We are only one year in business thus releasing a better and new menu will benefit the company due to the current situation. However, for the next hurricane season we have to create shorter menus, and purchasing larger stock quantities beforehand is noted.”

Waiting on feedback
“There is a lack of communication between the government officials and the hospitality industry. I’m also still waiting to get feedback from the grants for the hospitality sector from the Dutch Government”, according to Janssens.