Recently the Saba Business Association (SBA) held a meeting with the Executive Council regarding matters pertaining to entry policies and protocols as well as several other issues.
According to the latest figures, a total of 1297 persons were vaccinated on Saba and another group will be vaccinated before the end of April. The expected number of 90% fully vaccinated people seems to be a reality. Regarding the entry policy, it was clear that May 1st is when the borders open up, however, questions did arise regarding the covid insurance that is mandatory when traveling to St. Maarten. The St. Maarten government offers this for $30 with a validity of 6 months (see the EHAS website). The current email used for permission to enter the island will still be in place as the government is looking to have a system like EHAS in place.
According to the government, the current alert levels will remain in place and the current measures will not change. The SBA suggested for the government to organize a campaign reminding the public to continue to practice good hygiene and thanked the gov for placing the sanitizing stations on the island.
To accommodate travelers to Saba once the borders open, Winair has increased their flight schedule per May 1st but the ferry companies have not made a commitment as yet as to when to re-start the service to the island. The Edge is willing to start as soon as possible and a proposal has been submitted. The ferry service is not expected to start up before the 4th quarter of this year.
In addition, the government is negotiating with Green Destinations to provide their seal to businesses on Saba. Green Destinations is a non-profit organization for sustainable destination development and recognition, based in the Netherlands. The initial costs will be covered by the government, which will cover the first year of use of the seal. All eligible businesses are expected to pay for this after the first year – the expected cost is about $100 per year.
One of the other concerns of the SBA is the continued slow procedure of the IND pertaining to hiring personnel from abroad. With Saba, being such a small market, hiring personnel abroad is practically inevitable. In addition, concerns were voiced about the fact that quite a few businesses are in arrears where tax payments are concerned, resulting from closed borders due to the pandemic. With an eye on opening the borders and having tourists come back to the island, it will hinder especially the hospitality sector from hiring new personnel to be able to serve returning tourists as the IND does not honor any requests unless the company is in good standing at the tax department. The Executive Council has promised to look into this extremely urgent matter as they agree that no stone should be left unturned to stimulate the economy of Saba.
Discussions also took place regarding the new Director of Tourism who will start on June 1st. The SBA was happy to hear that the Tourism Website is being updated as well. In the meantime, a draft marketing plan will be discussed with the SBA and stakeholders of the hospitality sector. The hospitality sector will be invited for a meeting soon.
Other issues that were discussed were the need for a postal code for the BES islands. Since the implementation of the BES which grouped the 3 islands together, postal and courier services such as FedEx, DHL and UPS have been problematic. The SBA has again pressed the government to implement a postal code system that should elevate most of the current issues where delivery of mail is concerned.
Further, the current banking system was again discussed as it is a fact that the only bank on the island keeps decreasing its services to the general public as well as the business community which has consequences that cannot be denied. Last November the banking issues were addressed to State Secretary Knops who promised to make it a high priority on his list. The Executive Council informed the SBA that they have addressed the banking issues to the Dutch government as well and is picking up momentum at the Ministry of Finance. A report has been sent to this Ministry highlighting the current issues and the dire need for another bank and better service to the island. A consultant is expecting to arrive on Saba shortly to construct a report about the current banking system and issues that plague the customers.
Saba Business Association