The tourist season in St. Barth has gotten off, predictably, to a gloomy start. It is no secret that this island depends almost exclusively, whether directly or indirectly on tourism, and that the US, notably the northeast, accounts for most of that tourism. When the United States catches a cold, St. Barth sneezes. The repercussions, actual and potential, of a US economy troubled by a deepening recession and the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, are being tracked as closely as a hurricane. Obviously, given the international events, local travel and tourism professionals here were not counting on miracles to occur this season and prepared themselves for lower occupancy rates and decreased monthly figures. It was a realistic response, and included all of the typical corrections made when threatening weather looms over the local economy. Expenses have been curbed, where possible, larger hotel operations have cut back on new hires or existing staff, retail boutiques have lowered prices, or tried working out arrangements with their manufacturers and suppliers. Aggressive promotional campaigns have been launched. Confronted with the sagging numbers, islanders keep deferring their hope-and concern-one month at a time.
October traffic was very slow, and November, considered the start of the high season, was disappointingly sluggish, notably over the Thanksgiving holidays. Harbor and airport entry statistics bore out November's atypical calm. Airport entry statistics, gathered by the customs police, showed a 20% drop in November's American arrivals. The number itself is hard to interpret, however, because since the crash of the Air Caraibes flight 1701 last March, some tourists have been unable to quell their fears about an airport landing and have opted for sea shuttles from St. Martin to St. Barth via private boats. Luckily, business picked up during the Christmas holidays for many island boutiques, hotels and restaurants, only to die down again in January. Though the statistics are virtually impossible to verify, informal consensus opinions that business is down by 30%. It's a considerable drop, similar to the one the island economy experienced during the Gulf War.
In Gustavia harbor, there are less and less cruise ships. Internally, this can be attributed as the direct result of a political will that has sought to brake mass tourism, considered by many as unsuited to the image, reputation and the infrastructural limits of St. Barth. There, are however, more global factors that have come into play. When 9/11 occurred, one of the industry's biggest casualties was the cruise ship giant, Renaissance. Since the attacks, the company filed for bankruptcy and canceled the 26 stops it had planned to make in St. Barth this season. "There have never been so few cruise ships in St. Barth," say Jerome Montoya, head of SMTA, the island's largest cruise ship agent. Adds Montoya, "figures were down by 35% for October, 70% in November, and I don't ever remember a January with such few ports-of-call."
Local tourism professionals are now taking a hard look at what the rest of the season holds in store, and wondering how to brace themselves for the lean summer months ahead. The island is vulnerable, to hurricanes, to the fluctuations of the American economy, to international events, political instability, and the events that affect air travel and the travel industry both regionally and abroad. With so much of its economic welfare dependent on external factors, local business and political leaders are now looking at ways to take a greater, more proactive stance in the economic health of the local tourism market.
One of the ideas currently gaining in popularity is the creation of a bonafide tourism office. The concept has existed for years, but now seems to be garnering more political support, as long as the community purse does not fund the office's operating expenses. Municipal leaders believe that staff salaries, promotional budgets, and overhead should be covered by vacation taxes levied on hotel rooms and rental villas. The hospitality industry is not so keen on paying for a public function with a private purse, so the question will be up for debate in the months to come.
Tourism professionals have gotten very proactive about more aggressively marketing their destination and are now looking to attract English tourists. In view of the possible creation of a direct flight from London to St. Kitts with connecting flights to St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Barth, an advertising campaign is currently being prepared that would promote the aforementioned islands, St. Barth included, in the UK.
In addition to intelligent marketing strategies, good press has become a particularly valuable means of prompting potential tourists to come to St. Barth. A team from the travel magazine "Voyages", recently flew down to do an article on St. Barth which should soon be published in France, Italy, Great Britain and the United States.
Lastly, eight of the island's most prestigious hotels (the Filao Beach, the Carl Gustaf, the Christopher, Francois Plantation, the Guanahani , the Eden Rock, Le Toiny and Isle de France have created a new association, "the Gourmet Hotels of St. Barth". The club's mission statement is to promote the French gourmet cuisine in St. Barth that they offer. To do so, they are collaborating with some of Manhattan's most renowned restaurants, among them, Le Cirque, Cipriani and Balthazar.
Island businesses are also banking on the sixth edition of the ag2r, a biennial transatlantic sailing race from Lorient, on the coast of Brittany, to St. Barth bolster a month whose revenues are scant. With a projected May arrival, the boats are expected to draw heavy media attention to the island and the sports event it is co-sponsoring during a month of the year that is typically low on visitors.
Until then, the local business consensus is that the current situation can and will improve, that the local economy will recuperate its tan, and that a hard season will have successfully been navigated through rough waters to safer shores. February and March reservations look good, and Air France has announced that as of March 31, the company will be offering a direct flight from Paris to St. Martin, which will make travel from Europe far more convenient.
Like the message in a bottle, flung into the sea, hope floats, even in dismal times.
[Jun 27, 2013] Kay Quattrocchi is passionate about the Universe
Interview with Kay Quattrocchi by Panos Charitos
Kay Quattrocchi is an artist passioned about the Universe and inspired by the latest discoveries unveiling some of its secrets. For Kay Learning, discovering and opening our minds to other dimensions than those imposed by our five senses is a so...
CNN ranked Saline Beach N°5.
Is it possible to rank the world's best beaches? Of course it is. This is the Internet. Will everyone agree with their ranking, murmuring respectfully among themselves about how perfectly accurate every placement is? Maybe not. This is the Internet. But that's why they...
[May 18, 2013] Dream races at Les Voiles de St Barth
Performance and a friendly atmosphere.
For four years now, the Voiles de Saint-Barth has stuck with its simple philosophy of offering high class performance and a friendly atmosphere in the magnificent setting of the islands of Saint-Barth and has attracted increasing numbers from the yachting frat...
Preppy chic fashion finds an exotic backdrop on the island of St. Barths.
If you've opened your mailbox in the last week you've probably seen the latest j.crew catalog with a cover photo featuring the famous Eden Rock hotel ...well, the floating dock at least! The world class crew found inspiration...
[Dec 18, 2012] Victoria Secret Angels heat up St Barts
Candice Swanepoel, Erin Heatherton, Maryna Linchuk, Alessandra Ambrosio
The worlds sexiest angels hit the beaches of St Barths for a smoldering Victoria Secret photo shoot. The crystal clear Caribbean sea was the perfect compliment to the flawless curves of these stunning super models. Splashing ar...
[Dec 17, 2012] Kate Moss flaunts her famous figure in St Barts
Kate Moss on Gouverneur beach
Kate Moss was the perfect ornament for the stunning Gouverneur beach on st. Barths. The iconic super model joined famed fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier for a glamorous photo shoot on one of the islands most pristine beaches.
Still stunning at age 38 the Br...
[Sep 10, 2012] Rhony and the last hurrah on Island!
Last day in St. Barths.
Aviva just couldn't give it up! Good thing they were able to escape for a classic St barths lunch at the nearly untouched Le Tamarin. Carole is shocked that the restaurant has not changed in 20 years! The traditional beauty of St. barths is well and alive at this eclectic ge...
[Sep 3, 2012] The Real Housewives of NYC more fierce than hurricane Issac!
RHONY continue to sizzle on the island of St barths.
Come one come all...Looks like Sonja is going to get some action of her own tonight! LuAnn's not the only one who can speak the language of love...and all is fair on this sexy tropical paradise.
Villa Dunes is turning into quite the love shack...
Fabulous, Sexy, live in the moment place!
The Real Housewives Of New York all agree St. Barths is a "fabulous, sexy, live in the moment place". The fun begins with an exhilerating flight and safe landing at Gustav III airport in St. Jean, thanks to the expert pilots at Winair.
Little did they kn...
St Barths here they come!
The RHONY start their primping for the luxury island trip to St barths! Ramona and Sonja get their "quick fix" of beauty treatments...LuAnn shops for bikinis it's like...well ... "something you want to do alone..." Will Avivas fear of small planes stop her from making the ...
Take a tour of the exclusive villa.
Live like the Real Housewives of New York! St. Barths Online takes you inside the Dunes luxury villa where the girls stayed on their glamorous trip to the Island of St. Barths.
The 16,000 sq ft Villa Dunes offers the ultimate in luxury. Heated pools, tropical ...
RHONY live it up on the Island of St Barts!
Yachts, private villas, pristine beaches, barely-there bikinis and plenty of Pinot Grigio...the Real Housewives of New York (RHONY) hit St. Barts in style. Veteran housewives Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan and Luann De Lesseps (The Countess) join new cast ...
[Apr 10, 2012] Beyonce and Jay-Z spend Easter in St. Barts
Beyonce and Jay-Z have taken their daughter on her first vacation. The couple, who celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary last week, have been enjoying the sunshine on the Caribbean island of St. Barts with three-month-old Blue Ivy over the weekend, and took the tot for a day trip on a yacht.
Kick-off Les Voiles de Saint Barth 2012 Caribbean regatta in the magical French West Indies sailing paradise!
Today the prestigious and top-class Caribbean sailing regatta Les Voiles de St. Barth 2012 with Gaastra Sportswear as the official partner starts: At the third edition run...
[Mar 31, 2012] The Ambiance of St Barths Bucket 2012
Inside the Bucket.
This video features the 2012 St Barths Bucket Regatta and music by the Evan Goodrow Band. Special thanks to the entire crew of the Rebecca, Baz Bar, St Barths Online and the guys from the Evan Goodrow Band for putting on a fantastic show. The song from the Evan Goodrow Band is c...
On board with Rebecca.
The best event in St Barths took place on March 24 - 27, 2012. This video features the beautiful 141 ft sailing yacht, The Rebecca.
produced by Real Media Travel for St. Barths Online and Baz Bar St Barth.
[Mar 14, 2012] Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell in holidays
The age old saying of "I need a holiday to get over my holiday" actually seems applicable if you happen to be Paul McCartney.
The Beatle took wife Nancy Shevell on a romantic break to the Caribbean island of St Barts, just days after the pair visited Paris.
Last week, the lovebirds showed support ...
[Jan 19, 2012] Chris Hemsworth - Elsa Pataky - Matt Damon
On the day their pregnancy news was announced, Thor star Chris Hemsworth, 28, and Elsa Pataky, 35, were seen in sunny St. Barts, France on Wednesday (January 18). The Fast Five actress looked lovely in blue, sporting her beautiful baby bump.
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky
Chris and Elsa - w...
She might be 44, but Tamara Mellon still boasts a figure that women half her age would be proud of.
The Jimmy Choo co-founder showed off her toned figure in a sexy animal-print bikini as she hit the beach with her daughter in St Barts yesterday.
The skimpy string two-piece highlighted Tamara's env...
With almost every other celebrity couple enjoying the New Year in exotic locations, Gary and Danielle Lineker weren't going to be any different.
The married couple were spotted enjoying a romantic walk along a beach in St Barts today - and looked very much in love.
Gary, 51 and his wife, 32, had o...