Sint Maarten (Dutch pronunciation: [sɪnt ˈmaːrtə(n)]) is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. With a population of 40,120 on an area of 37 km2 (14 sq mi), it encompasses the southern 40% of the divided island of Saint Martin, while the northern 60% of the island constitutes the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin, the only place that France borders the Netherlands. Sint Maarten's capital is Philipsburg.
"Semper progrediens" (Latin)
(English: "Always progressing")
|Anthem: "O Sweet Saint Martin's Land"|
Location of Sint Maarten (circled in red)
Sint Maarten is located on the southern half of
the island of Saint Martin.
|Sovereign state||Kingdom of the Netherlands|
|Before separation||Netherlands Antilles|
|Country status||10 October 2010|
|Largest city||Lower Prince's Quarter|
|Government||Parliamentary representative democracy within a constitutional monarchy|
|Legislature||Estates of Sint Maarten|
|37 km2 (14 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
|Highest elevation||383 m (1,257 ft)|
• 2011 census
|1,110/km2 (2,874.9/sq mi) (10th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
• Per capita
|Currency||Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)|
|Time zone||UTC-4:00 (AST)|
|Mains electricity||120 V–60 Hz|
|ISO 3166 code|
Before 10 October 2010, Sint Maarten was known as the Island Territory of Sint Maarten (Dutch: Eilandgebied Sint Maarten), and was one of five island territories (eilandgebieden) that constituted the Netherlands Antilles.
On 6 and 7 September 2017, the island was hit by Category 5+ Hurricane Irma, which caused widespread and significant damage to buildings and infrastructure.
Sint Maarten had been inhabited by Amerindian peoples for many centuries, with archaeological finds pointing to a human presence on the island as early as 2000 BC. These people most likely migrated from South America. The earliest identified group were the Arawak people who are thought to have settled around the period 800 BC - 300 BC. Circa 1300-1400 AD they began to be displaced with the arrival of the more bellicose Carib peoples.
Arrival of Europeans
Christopher Columbus was the first European to see St Martin, on 11 November 1493 during his second voyage to the Americas. Nominally now Spanish territory, the island became the focus of the competing interest of the European powers, notably France, Britain and the Netherlands. While the French wanted to colonize the islands between Trinidad and Bermuda, the Dutch found San Martín a convenient halfway point between their colonies in New Amsterdam (present day New York) and New Holland. Meanwhile, the Amerindian population began to decline precipitously, dying from introduced diseases to which they had no immunity.
The Dutch built a fort (Fort Amsterdam) on the island in 1631; Jan Claeszen Van Campen became its first governor and the Dutch West India Company began mining salt on the island. Tensions between the Netherlands and Spain were already high due to the ongoing Eighty Years' War, and in 1633 the Spanish captured St Martin and drove off the Dutch colonists. At Point Blanche, they built what is now Old Spanish Fort to secure the territory. The Dutch under Peter Stuyvesant attempted to wrest back control in 1644, but were repulsed. However in 1648 the Eighty Years War ended and the Spanish, no longer seeing any strategic or economic value in the island, simply abandoned it.
With St. Martin free again, both the Dutch and the French jumped at the chance to re-establish their settlements. Dutch colonists came from St. Eustatius, while the French came from St. Kitts. After some initial conflict, both sides realized that neither would yield easily. Preferring to avoid an all-out war, they signed the Treaty of Concordia in 1648, which divided the island in two. During the treaty's negotiation, the French had a fleet of naval ships off shore, which they used as a threat to bargain more land for themselves. In spite of the treaty, relations between the two sides were not always cordial. Between 1648 and 1816, conflicts changed the border sixteen times. The entire island came under effective French control from 1795 when Netherlands became a puppet state under the French Empire until 1815. In the end, the French came out ahead with 53 km2 (20 sq mi; 61%) against 34 km2 (13 sq mi; 39%) on the Dutch side.
To work the new cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations the French and Dutch began importing large numbers of African slaves, who soon came to outnumber the Europeans. The slave population quickly grew larger than that of the land owners. Subjected to cruel treatment, slaves staged rebellions, and their overwhelming numbers made it impossible to ignore their concerns. In 1848, the French abolished slavery in their colonies including the French side of St. Martin. Slaves on the Dutch side of the island protested and threatened to flee to the French side to seek asylum. The local Dutch authorities then freed the colonies' slaves. While this decree was respected locally, it was not until 1863 when the Dutch abolished slavery in all of their island colonies that the slaves became legally free.
After the abolition of slavery, plantation culture declined and the island's economy suffered. In 1939 Sint Maarten received a major boost when it was declared a duty-free port. In 1941 the island was shelled by a German U-boat during World War II.
Tourism began growing from the 1950s onward, and Princess Juliana International Airport became one of the busiest in the Eastern Caribbean. For much of this period, Sint Maarten was governed by business tycoon Claude Wathey of the Democratic Party. The island's demographics changed dramatically during this period as well, with the population increasing from a mere 5,000 people to around 60,000 people by the mid-1990s. Immigration from the neighbouring Lesser Antilles, Curaçao, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Europe, and Asia turned the native population into a minority.
Sint Maarten became an "island territory" (eilandgebied in Dutch) of the Netherlands Antilles in 1983. Before that date, Sint Maarten was part of the island territory of the Windward Islands, together with Saba and Sint Eustatius. The status of an island territory entails considerable autonomy summed up in the Island Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles. During this period Sint Maarten was ruled by an island council, an executive council, and a Lieutenant Governor (Dutch: gezaghebber) appointed by the Dutch Crown.
Hurricane Luis hit the island in 1995, causing immense destruction and resulting in 12 deaths.
In 1994 the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France had signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin border controls, which allows for joint Franco-Dutch border controls on so-called "risk flights". After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands, and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007. Though the treaty is now in force, its provisions are not yet implemented as the working group specified in the treaty is not yet installed.
On 10 October 2010 Sint Maarten became a constituent country (Dutch: Land Sint Maarten) within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, making it a constitutional equal partner with Aruba, Curaçao, and the Netherlands proper.
Effects of Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma made landfall on 6 September 2017, causing extensive damage. 4 deaths and 34 injuries, of which 11 seriously, were reported. Princess Juliana Airport was extensively damaged but reopened on a partial basis in two days to allow incoming relief flights and for flights that would take evacuees to other islands. By 8 September, "many inhabitants [were] devoid of basic necessities" and looting had become a serious problem. Reports on 9 September indicated that 70% of the infrastructure on the Dutch part had been destroyed. A survey by the Dutch Red Cross estimated that nearly a third of the buildings in Sint Maarten had been destroyed and that over 90 percent of structures on the island had been damaged.
The Prime Minister of the Netherlands told the news media on 8 September that the airport in Sint Maarten was ready to receive emergency flights and that aid, as well as police officers and military personnel, were on their way. The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten had already asked the Dutch government for extended relief assistance which began to arrive on 8 September. The government issued a Tropical Storm Warning on 8 September since the Category 4 Hurricane Jose was approaching.
The government of the Netherlands was sending aid, as well as additional police and military, since looting was a serious problem. A statement by the Prime Minister summarized the situation on 8 September. "We've lost many, many homes. Schools have been destroyed. We foresee a loss of the tourist season because of the damage that was done to hotel properties, the negative publicity that one would have that it's better to go somewhere else because it's destroyed. So that will have a serious impact on our economy." At the time, preparations were being made as Hurricane Jose approached the island. Government estimates on 9 September indicated that 70 percent of houses were badly damaged or destroyed; much of the population was living in shelters pending the arrival of Jose. Thankfully, this second hurricane did not have a significant impact on the island.
Widespread looting had started and a state of emergency was announced; some 230 soldiers from the Netherlands were patrolling. Additional Dutch troops were expected. By 10 September, some 1,200 Americans had been evacuated to Puerto Rico from Sint Maarten by military aircraft during a time of looting and violence. On that date, Royal Caribbean International said that the company was sending its Adventure of the Seas to Saint-Martin and to St. Thomas to provide supplies and to offer evacuation services. The ship arrived on the island on 10 September with water, ice, garbage bags, clothing and canned food, and evacuated 320 people. By 11 September, King Willem-Alexander had already arrived in Curaçao and was scheduled to visit St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. When King Willem-Alexander visited Sint Maarten for the first time post-hurricane, he was shocked by the destruction. He immediately called for support from the European Union so the island could recover swiftly. Later in the month, it was revealed that the EU would allocate €2 billion in emergency funds for immediate disaster relief to restore basic essentials on Sint Maarten, such as drinking water and sanitation. In addition to the EU's contribution, Red Cross, the government of the Netherlands, and Dutch citizens of the mainland pitched in (via donations and crowdfunding) to raise money for the devastated island.
Post hurricane rebuilding
A report in late March 2018 indicated that the airport was able to handle some flights and some service had resumed from the US, Canada, and Europe. A new departure lounge was being used during rebuilding of the original facility. The General Aviation building was being used for passengers arriving on the island.
Telecommunications, including Wi-Fi had been restored on the island, 95% of customers were receiving electricity and drinking water was readily available on the island. Some tourist accommodations were open, with 27 operating and 36 said to be ready some time later this year. Cruise ships were arriving; a full 14 were accommodated the week of February 18, 2018.
Sint Maarten occupies the southern half of the island of Saint Martin in the Leeward Islands; the northern half forms the French territory of Saint Martin. To the north across the Anguilla Channel lies the British Oversea Territory of Anguilla, to the south-east of the island lies the French island of Saint Barthélemy and further south are the Dutch islands of Saba and Saint Eustatius.
Sint Maarten is 34 sq km. The terrain is generally hilly, with the highest peak being Mount Flagstaff at 383m. The area to west around the airport is flatter, and contains the Dutch section of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The Great Salt Pond lies to north of Philipsburg. Several small islands lie of the coast, notably Cow and Calf, Hen and Chicks, Molly Beday, Pelikan Key, Guana Key of Pelican and Sint Maarten which lies in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Government and politics
Sint Maarten is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and as such the Monarch of the Netherlands is head of state, represented locally by a Governor. Following the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, the Constitution of Sint Maarten was unanimously adopted by the island council of Sint Maarten on 21 July 2010. Elections for a new island council were held on 17 September 2010, since the number of seats was increased from 11 to 15. The newly elected island council became the Estates of Sint Maarten on 10 October. Sint Maarten is largely autonomous in internal affairs, with the Netherlands responsible for foreign diplomacy and defence.
In 1978, the government of the Netherlands Antilles installed a Research Committee on the Windward Islands (Dutch: Commissie van Onderzoek Bovenwindse Eilanden) to investigate claims of corruption in the island government. Even though the report issued by this commission was damaging for the island's government, measures were not put into place to curb corruption, arguably because the government of the Netherlands Antilles depended on the support of Wathey's Democratic Party in the Estates of the Netherlands Antilles. In August 1990, the public prosecutor of the Netherlands Antilles started an investigation into the alleged ties between the island government of Sint Maarten and the Sicilian Mafia, and in 1991 the Court of Audit of the Netherlands Antilles issued a report which concluded that the island government of Sint Maarten was ailing.
In the government and parliament of the Netherlands, the call for measures became louder and louder. With Dutch pressure, the government of the Netherlands Antilles installed the Pourier Commission tasked with investigating the state of affairs of the island government of Sint Maarten in December 1991. Its report concluded that the island was in a severe financial crisis, that rules of democratic decision-making were continuously broken, and that the island government constituted an oligarchy. In short, the island government failed completely according to the report. After long negotiations, the Kingdom government enacted a General Measure of Kingdom Administration (Dutch: Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur) in early 1993, placing Sint Maarten under direct supervision of the Kingdom. Although originally meant for one year, the Order-in-Council for the Kingdom was eventually extended until 1 March 1996.
Though much has changed since, allegations of criminal activities continue to plague Sint Maarten. In 2004, the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles asked the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (Dutch: Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC)) of the Dutch Ministry of Justice to conduct research into organized crime in Sint Maarten. The report concluded that money laundering and cocaine trade are widespread on Sint Maarten. It also alleged that money from the island was used to finance Hamas, its associate Holy Land Foundation, and the Taliban.
In April 2009, former Commissioner Louie Laveist was convicted, and sentenced to an 18-month prison sentence, by the Sint Maarten Court-of-First-Instance, on account of forgery, fraud, and bribery. He was later acquitted of forgery and of fraud by the Common Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, but not of bribery.
English is the day-to-day administrative language and language of communication in Sint Maarten, and the first language of the majority; the government uses Dutch when communicating with the Dutch government and formerly did so with the Netherlands Antilles government. Local signage uses both Dutch and English. The government continues to produce Dutch-language documents. There were English-medium and Dutch-medium schools on St. Maarten, and the Dutch government policy towards St. Maarten and other SSS islands promoted English medium education. As per the 2001 census there were far more Spanish speakers than Dutch speakers; each group was 14.8% and 4.2%, respectively. Thus, Sint Maarten is a polyglot society, most are simultaneously bilingual in Dutch and English, and among them are also speakers of Spanish and French. Linguist Linda-Andrea Richardson stated in 1983 that Dutch was a "dead language" in Sint Maarten. A local English-based dialect is spoken in informal situations on both the French and Dutch sides of the island.
Sint Maarten, along with Curaçao, uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder as its currency. The economy is heavily dependent on tourism, either from long-stays or day-trippers from the many cruise lines that dock in the Philipsburg Harbour; around 80% of the workforce is employed in this sector. Some limited agriculture occurs, however most food is imported.
Hurricane Irma severely affected the economy in 2017. In a 2019 report, it was revealed that the island's GDP had dropped by 4.7%, with an increase in inflation. This drastic hit to the economy was due to lessened tourism, real estate, trade, and business activities.
Sint Maarten's culture is a mix of African, European and North American influences. Ank Klomp wrote in Saint Martin: Communal Identities on a Divided Caribbean Island that Sint-Maarten lacked a Dutch cultural identity.
An annual regatta is held over three days culminating in the first weekend in March. Among the leading cultural artists of the island are Isidore "Mighty Dow" York (kaisonian, panman), Roland Richardson (Impressionist painter), Nicole de Weever (dancer, broadway star), Susha Hien (choreographer), Lasana M. Sekou (poet, author, independence advocate), Clara Reyes (choreographer), and Tanny and The Boys (string band music group). The annual Saint Maarten Carnival starts in April and ends in May. The Grand Carnival parade that takes place on the Dutch side is the largest parade of the island's two carnivals. The annual St. Martin Book Fair takes place during the first weekend of June, featuring emerging and famous authors from the island, the Caribbean region, and from around the world.
Sport and recreation
Popular team sports in Sint Maarten include baseball, basketball, volleyball, cricket, and soccer. Recreational fishing, golf, and water sports (including diving, kayaking, snorkelling, and yachting) are popular amongst tourists.
The Sint Maarten Soccer Association was founded in 1986. The organisation is not a member of FIFA, but became an associate member of CONCACAF in 2002, and a full member in 2013. The national football team debuted in 1989, and plays its home games at the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex, which has a 3,000-spectator capacity. After an initial period of popularity during the 1990s, including an appearance at the 1993 Caribbean Cup, interest in football declined, with the national team playing its last official match in 2000 (against Dominica). However, Sint Maarten is scheduled to return to international competition in March 2016, in the 2017 Caribbean Cup qualification tournament.
The Sint Maarten Cricket Association is a member of the Leeward Islands Cricket Association (LICA), which is in turn a member of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). With rare exceptions (for instance, the Stanford 20/20), the national cricket team plays only against other LICA members, though Sint Maarteners may go on to play for the Leeward Islands team at regional level and are eligible for both the West Indies and the Netherlands internationally. The primary venue for cricket is the Charles Vlaun Cricket Field. Colin Hamer was the first Sint Maartener to play first-class cricket, while Daniel Doram was the first islander to play at international level, debuting for the Netherlands against Ireland in the Intercontinental Cup in July 2013 at the age of 15, also becoming the first St. Maartener to take a first-class five-wicket haul. In 2016 Keacy Carty became the first St Maartener to play representative cricket for the West Indies (for the West Indies under-19s). Carty was the man of the final at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, and was later described by the prime minister, William Marlin, as having "brought the name of St Maarten to international acclaim".
Prior to cricket becoming popular, baseball was preferred. No national team existed, although Sint Maarteners were eligible to play for the Netherlands Antilles baseball team before its dissolution. Several Sint Maarteners have passed through the American baseball system, playing at college level or in the minor leagues. Allen Halley played college baseball for the South Alabama Jaguars and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round of the 1995 draft, reaching Class A-Advanced in the minor leagues. Three others, Rene Leveret, Marc Ramirez, and Rafael Skeete, were signed as free agents by major league teams during their careers, but played only in the minor leagues.
The Sint Maarten Volleyball Association is part of the Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association, which hosts championship qualifiers with countries within its zone. Countries that are part of the ECVA are: Anguilla, Antigua, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dutch St.Martin, French St.Martin, Grenada, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St.Kitts, St.Lucia, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Over the past 8 years, volleyball in St.Maarten on a National level has been developing and showing results. In 2016, the Sint Maarten Men's National Team went on to win the championship in their pool for the round 1 World Championship Qualifiers winning the gold along with many individual awards. The local awardees were; Nicholas Henrietta (Best Setter); Leonardo J Jeffers (Best Outside Hitter); Stephan Ellis (Best Middle); Allinton Augustine (Best Defence); Riegmar Valies Courtar (Best Opposite), and Riegmar Valies Courtar (Best Scorer) and MVP Most Valuable Player.
The island is famous for its runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, in which landing aircraft pass within 35 metres (38 yd) of Maho Beach below, due to the close proximity of the runway to the ocean. The planes appear to land dangerously close to beach goers so the beach and airport have become a popular place for people to view aeroplane landings. In July 2017, a New Zealander died from head injuries after being propelled backwards from a jet engine blast.
Primary and secondary schools
- The sole public secondary school is the St. Maarten Vocational Training School in South Reward
- Prins Willem Alexander School in St. Peters is the special education school
- Hillside Christian School (St. Peters)
- MAC Browlia F. Maillard Campus (Cul-de-Sac) and Rev. John A. Gumbs Campus (Betty's Estate)
- Seven Day Adventist (Cole Bay)
- Sr. Borgia Primary (Philipsburg)
- Sr. Magda Primary (St. Peters)
- Sr. Marie Laurence (Middle Region)
- Sr. Regina Primary (Simpson Bay)
- St. Dominic Primary (South Reward)
- St. Joseph Primary (Philipsburg)
- The Asha Stevens - Hillside Christian School (Cayhill)
Previously residents had to complete secondary studies in Aruba and/or Curaçao. Prior to 1976 Sint Maarten had two secondary schools: the government secondary school John Phillips School and the Catholic secondary school Pastoor Nieuwen Huis School. Philips was both a MAVO/ETAO school while Huis was a MAVO school. The foundation Stichting Voortgezet Onderwijs van de Bovenwindse Eilanden (SVOBE), established on February 20, 1974, was created as the neutral governing body for a new school created by the merger of Phillips and Huis schools. MPC, the merged school, opened on August 17, 1976.
The Caribbean International Academy, founded in 2003 is a preparatory private boarding and day school on the island of St. Maarten. Catering to children from Kindergarten to Grade 12, CIA is also the only school offering Canadian/Ontario High School Diploma (OSSD) and 90% of their graduates go on to attend universities in Europe, Canada and the United States. Learning Unlimited Preparatory School (LUPS) is an American accredited institution, that established a Caribbean location in St.Maarten in 1991. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Colleges and universities
The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC), founded in 1978, was previously located on Montserrat. Because of the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano in 1995, AUC moved its campus to St. Maarten later that year. A permanent campus was completed in 1998 in Cupecoy.
The University of St. Martin (USM) is located in Philipsburg. The University of Sint Eustatius School of Medicine, founded in 1999, was previously located on Sint Eustatius. In September 2013, the University of Sint Eustatius moved its campus to Cole Bay, St. Maarten.
Philipsburg Jubilee Library in Philipsburg was the most prominent library in Sint Maarten. However, after Hurricane Irma hit the island in 2017, the library was forced to shut down. As of February 2019, Philipsburg Jubilee Library still lacks the funding necessary for it to be rebuilt, but has recently reopened in a temporary location until further notice.
Sint Maarten is served by Princess Juliana International Airport, serving destinations across the Caribbean, North America and France and Holland. It is well known for its very low final approach landings close to a popular beach at the end of the runway. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled in a well-known case on the jet blast on this beach. Winair (Windward Islands Airways) has its headquarters on the grounds of the airport.
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- "Contact Us." Philipsburg Jubilee Library. Retrieved on February 28, 2018. "Our Address: Ch. E.W. Vogestreet 12 Philipsburg, St. Maarten."
- "Library on Sint Maarten still closed: 'Everyone has good intentions, but nothing is happening'". Caribisch Netwerk. 6 February 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
- "Jubilee Library to reopen in temporary location Monday - St Maarten Philipsburg Jubilee Library". Stmaartenlibrary.org. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
- Lazo, Luz (7 Sep 2017). "Irma devastates world-famous St. Martin airport". Washington Post. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
- Buckley, Julia (13 Jul 2017). "St Maarten: Tourist Killed by Jet Blast at Notorious Caribbean Airport". The Independent. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
- "Directory: World Airlines." Flight International. 30 March–5 April 2004. 96.
- Gert Oostindie (1998) paradijs overzee: de 'Nederlandse' Caraïben en Nederland. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
- Gert Oostindie and Inge Klinkers (2001) Knellende koninkrijksbanden: het Nederlandse dekolonisatiebeleid in de Caraïben, 1940–2000. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
- Joseph H. Lake, Jr. (2004) Friendly Anger - The rise of the labor movement in St. Martin. St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers. .
- Lasana M. Sekou, ed. (1997, Third printing) National Symbols of St. Martin - A Primer. St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers.
- Louis Duzanson (2000, 2004) An Introduction to Government - Island territory of St. Maarten. St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers. .
- Richardson, Linda-Andrea. "The socio-linguistic situation in St. Maarten." In: Carrington, Lawrence D. (editor). Studies in Caribbean Language. Society for Caribbean Linguistics, 1983. p. 63-69..
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sint Maarten.|
- Philipsburg Jubilee Public Library
- St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (official site).
- St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (official trade association site).
- House of Nehesi Publishers (book publishing/research/PR foundation).
- Secondary education
- Milton Peters College
- Caribbean International Academy
- Learning Unlimited Preparatory School
- St. Dominic High School
- St. Maarten Academy
- Sundial School
Sint Maarten travel guide from Wikivoyage
- "Sint Maarten". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
- St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (official site).
- St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (visitor information)
- St. Maarten Tourism Map (visitor information)
- Princess Juliana International Airport (official site).
- St. Maarten Excursions.
- GAYSXM tourism (official site)
- News and opinion