Jeffry: ‘Tourism is everybody’s business’

POSTED: 11/28/12 2:18 PM

St. Maarten – Local author and historian Daniella Jeffry will be launching a revised version of her book 1963-A Landmark Year in St. Martin soon and this Saturday she plans to sign copies of the retrospective publication on the advent of tourism at Vandorp Bookstores in Madame Estate.  The signing will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all those who purchase the book.

Ahead of Saturday’s signing, Jeffry has been re-educating the population about the importance of the island’s tourism industry and the history associated with the name “The friendly island.” She made an appearance on Stephan Roberts’ morning radio program, ‘Breakfast with DJ Roberts’ on Sunday.

During the show, Jeffry said that she is concerned about the state of the island’s tourism product, indicating that a strategic vision for combating crime, corruption, criminality and even uncertainty needs to be realized.

“Today if we come to a crisis, I think we need to go back and reflect and analyze what made tourism a success on the island and try to gather from that means of finding solutions. As long as criminality, violence and lawlessness continue to take place, we are going to have serious issues with our activity of tourism,” she said on the Voice of St. Maarten.

Jeffry’s research derive conclusions that it was in 1963 that the island went through a phenomenal transformation with the development of its infrastructure, electrification and the construction of the first base terminal, through which tourists could enter the island.  Her book provides vivid details of that era, photographs and the recollections of many people who became involved in tourism industry in that year.

“St. Maarten makes a leap every 20 years and we are going into the other 20 years and I hope that it will be beneficial. What I have observed that the mental state and lifestyle of the population was conducive to the advent of tourism. This is the reason why it is the people of the island that made tourism in terms of their friendliness, the beauty and cleanliness of the island. The fact that the people of St. Martin protected the environment attracted the first tourists,” Jeffry stated.

Jeffry opined that today’s reality is completely different and a lot of it has to do with the lack of vision from decision makers.

“Something went wrong somewhere, it didn’t have to do with the people but the decision making bodies. They lost their perspective and the vision. We need to think about it …and work on it. What is the state of mind of the people today?  The solution has to be found inside of the island and inside of each other. We have a word that is misused a lot today; unity. Where do you find unity if you do not even have unity within yourself? Unity has to do with honesty and politicians need to be a bit more honest with the people. Seeking votes of people they should speak the truth. This is not happening,” the former educator believes.

With a more detailed explanation on her concept of unity, Jeffry said that although the truth is fragile and change depending on a person’s state of mind, unity usually starts with being true to one’s self.

“Unity starts with you being united with your inner self, united with your vision of what you want. Apparently those things are lacking and this is a reason why people get disappointed and discouraged because they are told certain things. These things are just for politicians to get votes. But when you are in office you never do what you are supposed to do. As long as the situation is like that, it does not make sense to talk about unity as a concern,” she said candidly.

Reflecting on the 1980s, Jeffry said that up until then, crime hardly occurred on the island and there was hardly anyone walking the streets as beggars.

“But this society today is breeding criminals. When you have criminality in the city and in the near villages, then you have criminality everywhere. You can’t run to another city, because there is nowhere else to run. It makes the whole island negative. If it was safe we would not have gated communities.”

While admitting that the island is completely ready for independence on either side, Jeffry said that the island’s culture is constantly being eroded and institutionalized systems make things worse for small island nations.

“We have adjusted to societies that have nothing to do with our society. We have laws coming down from Europe that are not fit for our small society. They have totally removed the face of our society, our values and our principles. What we have done is created are new societies based on bigger countries, we have created a monsters and apparently the governments that are here do not seem to be able to handle it.”

An example of this, the historian said, can be found in the way the French government administers social aid.

“People tend to feel that the family is not important but the family is the unit of a society. When a family is broken down because of laws that are applied we have a problem. The society substitutes your effort to work and produce by giving you and when they give you they put laws with it such as you can reproduce and get assistance but you cannot have a male in your house. Those are the laws that are destroying the family structure.”


Taxi Drivers

Commenting on the issuance of additional taxi licenses, Jeffry said that she is not opposed to this because it is a form of job creation. However taxi drivers need to be educated on their roles and responsibilities as tourism ambassadors. Her 1963 book details how taxi drivers afforded tourists more than just a transportation service. Taxi drivers also accommodated tourists in their homes, invited them to family gatherings and formed lasting friendships, she indicated.

“It was not just tourists coming; the tourists became friends of the taxi drivers. Your population has to be in tuned with that industry. It was the level of society that gave us the name the Friendly Island. The people were totally involved.  There was no instruction of how to do things. It was the natural attitude of the people that made tourism all those years ago. Taxi drivers should be part of securing the tourists just like before. In such a case you don’t give jobs because jobs have to be given. It is not about jobs but what that is going to bring to your country. We need to go back to find out what is the meaning of the friendly island and who gave us that name.”


She also believes that the island’s immigration policies as seriously harmed the St. Martin identity.

“I wouldn’t say that the foreigners are totally wrong. Our system is also wrong when you are not applying the principles you have put and you are stealing people’s money. So people no longer respect the law today. The country has grown but it has not developed the immigration department to handle the growth of the country. Dr. Claude Wathey had a bright idea for tourism but there was no protection for the people. The industry has grown, the expansion of the population has been great and we have benefitted from that success but the institutions did not follow.”

Jeffry added that, “Independence is the answer because if you can’t handle your situations when you have someone else responsible for defence and so on, how will be able to handle it on your own. We have imported misery. How can we not pay attention to who we are bringing in on such a small 37 square mile island? They can just take a boat or plane and go back where they want when they would have committed crime. When that population has become two thirds of the total population then we have a serious problem.”

Next Tuesday Daniella Jeffry will be signing copies of 1963- A Landmark Year in St. Martin at the Simpson Bay location of Vandorp Bookstores from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Jeffry’s interview can be heard in its entirety by logging onto


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