Predicts sharp drop in tourism in March – Berger criticizes handling chikungunya-crisis

POSTED: 02/24/14 11:53 PM

St. Maarten – Jeff Berger, the CEA of JMB Communications and the publisher of the influential electronic newsletter St. Maarten Weekly News, warns in today’s edition that the tourist season will take a serious hit in March due to the way the government has handled the chikungunya-crisis. Berger expects that “tens of thousands” of tourists will stay away from St. Maarten, fearing the effects of a chikungunya-infection.

(For the full text of Berger’s report see our Opinion Page).

Berger attributes the expected dip in visitors to the island’s “lack of planned, structured, prompt and positive crisis PT visibility in the American and Canadian press.” Urging people on the island to take protective measures against chikungunya only addresses the problem on the island. The bigger issue is countering misinformation overseas and about that the island appears to be doing nothing, Berger notes.

The notion that visitors will avoid St. Maarten this season, Berger divined from reactions on social Media where he has around 14,000 followers.

“We are convinced that, at the very least, St. Maarten / St. Martin will see many tens of thousands of people less than it would have this year had both sides of the island joined forces when this epidemic started and launched a crisis PR program in North America.”

Misleading travel warnings from North American governments have cause “a fair amount of travel panic amongst SXM’s primary demographic, including older timeshare owners, Berger wrote. “The island needs to act but no matter what it does at this late hour, it will likely see a significant to sharp drop in tourism starting in March and possibly for the entire year.”

Berger criticizes what he labels as a “misguided and factually incorrect texting program” from social insurance bank SZV that uses the misleading term “life threatening” in relation to chikungunya. Berger points out that chikungunya is not life threatening at all.

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