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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!
  December 8, 2002 - Issue # 28
   Making life a little sweeter
   The mission statement of the local service clubs in St. Barth, the not-for-profit volunteer groups that represent local chapters of worldwide associations, is to improve the quality of community life. It's work that both the Lion's Club and the Rotary Club take seriously, animated by the belief that groups of people working toward a common goal can make a difference. Both clubs have been particularly active these past few weeks, and both have launched civic awareness programs to draw attention to some lifestyle issues that matter. The Lion's Club got the season off to a conscious start with a project intended to promote courtesy behind the wheel and on the road. Its "Driver Awareness Program" was created to remind local drivers to keep their tempers, follow the rules of the road, and respect other drivers, especially now, when the influx of seasonal travelers will require local drivers, often in a rush, to slow down and be patient with foreign motorists who are less familiar with St. Barth's winding roads. As in the past, the Rotary Club has once again focused its attention on a clean environment, and during the recent Gustavialoppet, the annual Swedish marathon held in November, club members initiated an "Adopt a Road" program, a project that has been very successful in the United States. More than 50 local families signed on to be the "green" custodians of road sections, a response far beyond the club's expectations. The Rotary Club also distributed free disposable cameras for its "The Best And Worst of St. Barth" photo contest. Participants were asked to take photos of the island's environmental best and worst, once again calling attention to the environmental realities that come as a result of our choices and habits, good and bad.
   Unlike last year, when the events of 9/11 turned the world upside down, 2002 Thanksgiving tourism figures were good. The Christmas holiday period augurs well and should bring enough holiday tourists to generously feed the island's tourism-based economy. Despite the brisk reservations, local tourism professionals narrowly escaped a travel scenario that could have presented major problems to tourists and locals alike.
  The approval of a proposed airport regulation would have required all St. Barth connecting passengers to clear customs at the Sint Maarten airport and would almost surely have meant an unwanted overnight layover for a substantial number of these passengers. European carriers like Air France have always had to work within very tight schedules that leave little room for error when flying into Sint Maarten. The French flights arrive in the afternoon, usually with just enough time to ensure that St. Barth-bound passengers (baggage is yet another story) are herded as quickly as possible through the connecting gate in St. Martin in order to get on the last connecting flight to paradise. When there are delays, as occasionally happens, passengers can find themselves stuck in St. Martin overnight. Not a good thing.
  Getting back to the thwarted policy change, it was proposed by Saint Martin airport officials eager to welcome their newest US carrier, Delta Airlines, into the region. Lack of gate space prompted them to consider taking over the transit gate, a case of robbing Peter to give to Paul. Air France strongly contested the move, and with reason. One-quarter of the French airline's travelers booked on its St. Martin flights continue directly to St. Barth.
  The battle is won, the dust has settled, and holiday travelers transiting through Sint Maarten en route to St. Barth will be able to go directly to their connecting gate as before and worry about nothing more serious than which restaurant to visit during their first night in St. Barth.

  More to come,

  Yves Bourel

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