Well, it existed a long time before tourists started coming, ..
There is a reason why even though SXM airport is in a shambles they want to reopen by Friday. ..SXM didn't exist before tourism. In 1960 the population was 10,000 and now its around 80,000 over 75% of which come from outside of the island.
Electricity was only added to the French side in the LATE 1960s. On the Dutch side maybe in the late 50s. And it was tourism which triggered the development of infrastructure. The middle aged taxi drivers on the French side are very good at giving the real social history of the island as they have seen how tourism tremendously improved their lives.
Before tourism they gathered salt, fished, had goat herds, and migrated to neighboring islands to cut cane, or to AUA/CUR to work in the refineries. Without tourism the population plummets by 75% or more, sharply reducing local consumption and government revenues even more than that lost by the absence of tourism. There is no more salt, farming isn't an option and fishing is a hard an unreliable way to earn a living. The locals now enjoy a standard of living way above what semi subsistence activities can support. SXM is the second richest island in the northeast Caribbean with only EIS being better off.
Before tourism SXM was a dry island with an impoverished population chasing goats. So SXM will open on Friday and they hope that airline service will resume shortly after that. I don't know if Winair planes will be back given the Jose possibility on Sat.