While Luxury Travel Magazine reported that “St Barts is back and open for business” and its “pristine beaches have been restored and the tiki-bars restocked, one island insider told St Barts Life that looks can be deceptive.
Yes, St Barts has bounced back at a phenomenal speed but none of the half a dozen major hotels will be open before Thanksgiving 2018. Those “pristine beaches” the hotels are on were damaged by surging seas and that “wall of water” was as destructive as the hurricanes.
Eden Rock is almost starting over as the sea swept everything before it and it may be two years before Cheval Blanc reopens as they explore plans to incorporate Taiwana, which LVMH bought earlier to become the biggest hotel on the island, as both sets of buildings were “comprehensively” damaged.
Two of the three main beach restaurants, Shellona and La Plage, forecast their opening for Christmas but Nikki Beach is saying April 2018.
The garden restaurant Tamarin will reopen November 21, just in time for Thanksgiving and by the end of the year, every major independent restaurant should be open, the three main beach venues rebuilt and maybe 60-70 percent of private villas restored for rentals.
Gustavia Yacht Club (GYC), which opened last year, also took a beating at the hands of Irma. Although it was initially believed that the Clubhouse would not open until the Bucket in March, after a great deal of hard work on the island by the GYC team, the relaunch of the restored building is targeted for December 15.
Many Americans have cancelled coming for Christmas and New Year 2017. Roman Abramovich, whose $90 million mansion on Gouverneur Beach is undergoing post-hurricane repairs, will also be absent this season and has cancelled his annual New Year’s Eve bash. Last year, Paul McCartney performed at the Russian billionaire’s private party, which reportedly cost just under $6 million.
Visitor numbers to St Barts will certainly be down this year but there’s currently a strong camaraderie apparent on the island and not everyone is unhappy about the predicted nonattendance of NY and LA posers over the holiday season.
“Most importantly the weather is glorious, good chefs are already here and fresh local fish is as abundant and delicious as ever!” one businessman told St Barts Life. “The blue tarpaulin roofs will disappear over the next few months, mobile phone service will reach every corner of the island in the next few weeks and EDF will have replaced all the broken poles, dodgy connections and substations that were flooded.”
Island President Bruno Magras commented at a business round table last week that “enquiries for berths and moorings were up on 2016”.
But as our insider put it, “The best measure of the resilience and attraction of the island is that estate agents have very few new properties on their books and prices are not dropping.”
He added, “In summary, the tortoises have survived and are still holding up traffic, the frogs and cicadas are in full voice and residents are warm and demonstrative in their thanks for early visitors having the confidence to come and not moan about the minor inconveniences.”
Article first published November 19, 2017.