St. Barts is a destination that’s always in style. The glamorous set—celebrities, business magnates, and the deep-pocketed in general—have gravitated to the Caribbean island and French collectivity for decades. Roman Abramovich is among the high-profile names who owns a home here, and mega-yachts filled with the likes of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are a mainstay presence in Gustavia Harbor, especially in the week leading up to New Year’s. Regulars come for the pristine setting with nary a cruise ship in sight, uncrowded beaches, and a scene that includes buzzy beach clubs by day and hard to get into restaurants at night.
And we can’t leave out the hotels, all of which are small properties and attractions in their own right, that see guests who check in year after year (or even more often than that). Their storied clientele includes everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio and Paul McCartney to Beyoncé and Miranda Kerr.
It may have enduring appeal, but St. Barts’ popularity appears to have reached unprecedented levels over the last few months: According to Nils Dufau, the president of the island’s tourism committee and vice president of the local government, the 500 hotel rooms in St. Barts are almost 100% booked through President’s Day, and have been since the end of October. “Normally, high season starts Thanksgiving weekend, but this year, it began a month earlier. We also see a dip in visitors in early January, but that’s not happening this season,” he says.
Another sign of the demand: Tradewind, a boutique airline company offering both scheduled and private charter flights, which operated in St. Barts for 15 years and counts it as one of its top destinations, has seen record business in the last year. Cofounder David Zipkin says that demand is up 40% in 2021 compared to the year before and well above 2019 levels (one-way flights average $500 per person). “This is a destination that people are eager to visit, partly because it’s so glamorous and beautiful and partly because COVID-19 cases have been very low on the island,” he says. “It feels safe.”
The pandemic didn’t get in the way of development on St. Barts, particularly on the luxury hotel front where travelers have new and exciting reasons to book a stay.