Saint Barthélémy : Unique professional experience through a natural disaster

Almost 10 months ago I was completed a six month management internship in one of the most renowned island in Caribbean Sea. Saint Barthélemy is a small island which is know for its luxury hospitality, its quality of services and attract hosts from all over the world which are envious of living a unique experience.

However hidden from the view Saint Barthélemy is also a destination which is frequently subject in low season to the threat of hurricane. Most of these alerts are harmless because the hurricane are self-harm in the Atlantic Ocean. These alerts allow the island to maintain security standards in any time and build a safe welcoming environment for hosts. These standards are necessary to inform and protect all the people which could be present at the moment.

September 5th, 2017 : We were preparing ourself to live the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic. All the hosts were actually away of the hotel because of the closing annual season.
The managers were invited to the morning meeting to prepare the arrival of the hurricane called Irma. I had to attend the General Manager to organise a planning with every tasks that we should take care of and create different teams to file the standards. In this situation the most important is to stay concentrate, be focus on the standards but also to work quickly. We should in a short time protect every items of the hotel to avoid destruction but also to improve the safety of every people on the island.
The hardest thing was to reassure employees and at the same time alert them of the danger. Every two hours I gathered all the employees including managers to review the planning of tasks and progress of the hurricane. But the situation wasn’t going to improve and Irma was confirmed is path on the island.
Once the hotel was closed following the standards it was our turn to go back in our accommodation and protect ourselves as possible. Even if all day long I was helping intern to be calm and stay positive I remember that I have never felt so anxious.

Thursday, September 6th , 2017 : At the beginning we didn’t really imagine what could be the impact of a 5 category hurricane. Irma was initially predict to avoid the small Caribbean Island. But from its creation in the Atlantic Ocean Irma never stop growing up to finally become equally important as the size of France. The torment begins and will persist for hours and hours.
Once we were allowed to walk out form our accommodation it was a total shock. No one could imagine what was the widespread destruction without seeing that. Everything was desert, quiet, calm after Irma. The only noise were people crying.
I still remember I a felt when I see the hotel for the first time after Irma. It was as we destroyed my own property. In Saint Barthélémy we all are away from home and our the hotel is our point of reference.

It was all at once the hardest and enlightening profesional experience. And if I must live it again I could say that now I know how manage my emotion and secure my team and myself before and after natural disaster.

Justine Gonthier

Read also: How is St Barths After Irma?


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