SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT ROAD) - The Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company N.V. (PJIAE) is expected to end the year with 35% inbound travelers when compared to last year, in what is still a very volatile tourism environment.
This projection, however, is in line with the company’s COVID-19 Business Recovery plan. Traveler numbers are gradually increasing since July, when the airport reopened for international flights. The management and staff of PJIAE are working hard to continue driving the growth momentum through new commercial endeavors with a strong and important focus on cost and cashflow management and efficiencies.
At the same time, the airport has witnessed the start of its extensive reconstruction project more than a month ago, with over 60 local employees working diligently on the necessary pre-works and progressing swiftly to the next stage of the demolition of the terminal building. This milestone comes after a very difficult period for PJIAE following Hurricane Irma.
Reaching one of its most difficult hours in history last year, the company ran out of cash, which, given the damaged terminal, resulted in visitors traveling, and staff and stakeholders working, in harsh conditions. The road to recovery was paved in 2019 by securing a US$20 Million emergency bridge loan from both the Sint Maarten and Dutch government, to help facilitate the airport’s dire financial needs and obligations.
PJIAE’s crisis was multi-layered with many risks involved and time being its worst enemy. The requested assistance from Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) resulted in a strong cooperative foundation and proactive assistance, and in securing a comprehensive funding package from the World Bank (WB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the reconstruction of the terminal building.
In April 2020, less than one year after it ran out of money, PJIAE was able to move forward, having obtained the release of the loans and the insurance proceeds, to start the rebuilding of the terminal building. The loan package of the WB included a liquidity component facility, which proved crucial in supporting PJIAE through a difficult period, by securing the jobs and, by extension, the salaries of PJIAE’s valuable staff, during 2020.
The necessary corporate governance improvements were also implemented, whereby the Supervisory Board and Board of Directors were completed with the addition of new members with the right competencies and experience. The impact of COVID-19 didn’t stop management and staff from continuing the road to recovery, as a comprehensive COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigation Plan was prepared and implemented to guarantee a safety bubble between Sint Maarten and the world, allowing tourist to come back to the island and thus restart the economic recovery.
The road to recovery is still a long one, given the volatile global travel and tourism market. Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company N.V. is therefore, not out of the woods yet. “PJIAE was and is still faced with a complicated and big task.
The Managing Board and Supervisory Board commented: “PJIAE was and still is faced with a complicated and big task, we are proud of all the efforts from the staff and the entire team over the last period, as well as to see that a large team of local workers started with the demolition and pre-works for the reconstruction of the terminal. However, it is crucial in these times to create and guarantee stability for people and stakeholders to do its best work for the airport and the country. The focus is now to continue in full force the reconstruction and the implementation of the strategic goals and direction. Together with stringent cost management and focus, PJIAE, its workers and stakeholders are set to come out of this stronger than ever”.