Tourists visiting Saba are sometimes subjected to strict controls. Sabans complain on social media sites that strict controls bring the tourism industry at risk.
Tourists often have to wait a long time during the inspections in the hot sun or rain, because there is little shelter from the port and airport. Sabans find that this harms the image of their friendly island.
Head of the Saba Tourist Bureau, Glenn Holm says that there are many complaints from tourists coming. The complaints are mainly about the long waiting lines at the port.
“As customs it is our policy that we want to interfere as little as possible during the inspections yhe economic traffic during our inspections”, the head of customs Edward Thielman stated. “This means that we strive for the shortest possible delay of goods and people during inspections.”
To get to Saba, visitors must first make a stop on St. Maarten. Tourists on St.Maarten have been checked by customs and Holm finds it unnecessary that on Saba there has to be checked again. “We have never seen a tourist who took illegal items to Saba,” he adds .
“Customs is always present within the Caribbean Netherlands, and every now and then in addition to regular inspections, also more fundamental checks are held as special actions,” explains Thielman . Holm fears however that tourists will move to other islands such as St. Barts and Anguilla. ” If nothing is changed in the situation then tourists will not return.”
Holm says he has talked about placing of a shelter at the harbor several times with the Island Council without success .
My experience is that passengers like it to leave that hot little plane and enjoy being in the fresh air even under the sun enjoying the looks of Saba. In case of rain handing out umbrellas (and afterwards ask these to be returned) might be an elegant way to solve problems at the harbour? But I must confess that I have little experience there.
The complaint about double checking on St Maarten and on Saba is not correct.
St Maarten is another country than the Dutch Caribbean and moreover, sometimes one has to pay import tax when bringing goods to Saba. Also the fact that controls had never shown any thing illegal is not correct as far as I remember. Not long ago drugs were found.
What I heard as a more serious complaint was last Saturday. Tourist complained about the fact that so many doors were closed and I checked it. Indeed the Tourist Office was closed, the Trailshop was closed and also the museum!
In high seaso for tourism those things should not happen.
These customs and immigration people behave as if Saba is similar to the USA. Come on: these people travel between two countries within the same kingdom!!!! In the whole of Europe they have “Goods to declare” and “Nothing to declare” lanes. On St. Maarten there is even no passport check for tourists coming from the cruise ships because the immigration has the list of guests that are on board. This is also the case for passengers on our ferries.
It seems that the problem is with the civil servants. If they do not hassle the travelers then they have no job. Maybe the officers on duty cannot help it due to their instructions. But how do we get to the real trouble makers at the top?
This matter has been looked into on numerous occasions. It is very simple and I asked it once already when a cruise ship visits the port of Bonaire does every passenger go through this checking like is done on Saba? To date I have not received a good understanding response. This whole matter needs to be solved in a radical manner. During the Saba Day week one should have been at the harbor to see how the tourist were being treated having to stand up in line like they were a bunch of criminals. It is nice to hear Mr. Thielman talk nonsense. On several occasions he has been here and made many empty promises to the Government of Saba on how to make things work smoother and to date nada. I have personally sat in on two meetings with the Government and Mr. Thielman and all ended being a total waste of time. Honestly I would say it is I was a Commissioner I would go down to the harbor when the tourist are coming ashore and give instructions myself. Day trippers should not have to go through this harassment. To date the harbor is still property of the Island Government of Saba and it is time that the Government issue instructions no Customs or anyone else would be telling me what has to happen in my port. If this continues it will jeopardize our little tourist trade. For me it is very easy the boats that come in here are all coming from a country that has more Customs officers let them go down to the boats with their dogs etc and sniff out the drugs and weapons very easy. What is happening on Saba today is pure bull.
The Customs office was just finished last year. When the building was in the planning stage did anybody look at the design? There is usually one or two customs officer at any particular time in the office, but more than 80 percent of the interior space is occupied by the customs agents leaving less than 20% of the interior space for the incoming tourists. Talk about planning! Either re-arrange the interior space which would be the least costly alternative or add an enclosed waiting area to the existing structure. Glenn Holm and Dave Levenstone have a very legitimate point: to treat visitors this way on their first arrival to the island shows the lack of the island’s interest in tourism and I am sorry to say that mere umbrellas will not solve the existing problem on a rainy day.
I’ve been visitng Saba several years now and I can’t complain about any wait time.
Most of my experience has been thru the airport, only once through port. I get off the plane walk up to immigration, hand my passport, it’s stamped and I’m on my way.
As for those rainy days at the airport, perhaps extend area with deck path included with overhang covering that would accomodate Winairs one plane carrying capacity.
A positive effect of these controls could be that less criminals try to do “business” on Saba.
That is in an indirect way also positive for tourism.
Having been to Saba a few times and Statia many times (as tourists), we have never experienced a problem at either island, always a straight forward, professional, efficient (and enjoyable … we love visiting) experience … Kudos! Let me tell you, it’s an order of magnitude better than in Canada (e.g. wait for a taxi outside when it’s -25c outside) or the Netherlands for that matter.
As kj Hassell suggested, if there is a problem with rain, perhaps take look at what Statia did with the canopy at the airport.