Divi Little Bay Beach Resort and Isle de Sol Yacht Club in Simpson Bay have both received the prestigious Blue Flag eco-label award, making Sint Maarten the first country in the Dutch Caribbean to have Blue Flag locations. This accomplishment is no small feat as both locations were required to improve certain aspects of their facilities and meet stringent international criteria in order to be considered for the eco-label.
The Blue Flag is awarded to beaches or marinas that meet a specific set of criteria concerning environmental information and education, water quality, safety, services and environmental management. The program is designed to raise environmental awareness and increase sound environmental practices among residents, tourists and the management and staff of marinas, beaches and resorts. The eco-label has become an international symbol of quality recognized by governments, non- governmental organizations and tour operators and is used for the promotion of the awarded beach, marina or destination.
The local foundation Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC) partnered with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau in 2008 to work towards establishing the Blue Flag Program on St. Maarten. Since then the program has enjoyed the full support of Minister Franklin Meyers, Director of Tourism May-Ling Chun and their respective predecessors former Commissioner Frans Richardson and former Director of Tourism Ms. Regina Labega. The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, the St. Maarten Timeshare Association and the Marine Trades Association are also enthusiastic supporters of the efforts to bring the Blue Flag eco-label to St. Maarten.
The Blue Flag, which was originally a French program, became an international award in 1987 and has since spread across the world, expanding to 41 countries and 3650 Blue Flag sites. Each year, national Blue Flag juries review all Blue Flag candidates to ensure they meet the criteria for beaches and marinas at the national and international level. Those that do are then forwarded to the International Jury, which focuses on set criteria, before giving a final verdict. The International Jury is composed of representatives from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International Lifesaving Federation (ILS), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), an international environmental education expert, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) and the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).