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  Yves Bourel has been living in St. Barts for more than 10 years. He is an experienced journalist and has been the editor-in-chief for local newspapers. Currently, he is one of the radio announcers at Radio St. Barth for whom he covers political news and is presenting the local news every 2 weeks for St. Barths Online!
  January 16, 2002 - Issue # 29
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   La fête
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   The beautiful motor yachts and sailing boats arrived in number for the holidays, creating a floating garland of twinkling lights that seemed to string from here to St. Martin. On land, the mood was just as festive. Holiday travelers poured into St. Barths, more than doubling the island's population, filling hotel rooms, villas and restaurants to maximum capacity and giving retailers and tourism professionals the economic boost they had hoped for. Even the calendar cooperated this year. Due, no doubt, to the fact that New Year's Day fell in the middle of the week, hoteliers reported that their average guest stays were longer; many clients chose to push departure dates back to the New Year weekend.
The restaurant scene sprouted two newcomers. The all-white Zanzibarth, a restaurant that has replaced the old Colonial in Saint-Jean, quickly captured the attention of Americans and Europeans with its stylized design and Franco-Belgian menu. So did the 180-seat restaurant bar, Nikki Beach, which timed its opening to coincide with the height of holiday frenzy. As expected, it attracted many of the same clients who frequent the restaurant's more established St. Tropez and Miami locations. The only thing missing in all the festivities was parking space, the lack of which made the stretch of St. Jean road from the airport to the Villa Creole a real hassle to navigate.
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   The business community mobilizes
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   The year 2003 could signal big changes in the administration of the island. Currently considered as part of the Guadeloupe administrative department, St. Barths might change its status to that of an overseas French territory, thereby breaking away from its dependence to Guadeloupe. The question of 'how to be' or 'not to be' will be put directly to voters in a referendum that is planned for the second half of the year. While the mayor is working on the political dossier in tandem with the French Overseas minister, the St. Barths business community is counting on getting in its two cents. It has recently organized itself into the newly created St. Barthelemy Economic Liaison Committee, whose mission statement is to represent and protect the interests of island businesses, unions and associations, notably where the issue of taxes are concerned. To do so, it will seek to participate actively in the elaboration and promotion of the new island status. Last week, city hall workers attended an informational meeting to find out more about what the proposed status changes would mean to government services and welfare benefits. A visit by a delegate of the French Overseas minister is planned toward the end of this month to provide local elected officials with more concrete information and details on how status change will affect those benefits.
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   The Music Festival
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   The 19th Music Festival opened on January 14 and will run for ten days with a program that will feature more than sixty professional performing artists, mostly American. Performances will be held in two of the island's churches, at the Anglican Church in Gustavia and at the Catholic church in Lorient. The island's young Suzuki piano and violin students will also give a performance during the Sunday children's program. Tickets can be purchased at the door before each performance or at the Tourism Office in Gustavia.
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   Tourism minister makes friends
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   As part of his official state visit to the French West Indies, the state secretary of tourism, Leon Bertrand, spent a few hours in St. Barths. Aside from pledging his support to mayor Bruno Magras for the push to become independent from Guadeloupe, Mr. Betrand congratulated island leaders on its decision to exclude itself from the governmental push to create defiscalization zones in the Antilles (St. Martin/Guadeloupe) in order to boost tourism.

  More to come,

  Yves Bourel


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