The number of tourists flying into the Caribbean islands Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba in 2014 was almost the same as in 2013. As they stayed for shorter periods on average on St Eustatius and Saba, the number of overnight stays of tourists arriving by air on these islands decreased in 2014. It seems that Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba did not benefit from the growth in worldwide tourism in 2014. This was also true for the entire Caribbean region (IMF, 2014).
Although the shares differed per island, most tourists arriving by air in Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, in 2014 had the Dutch or American (including Puerto Rican) nationality.
Alongside tourists who arrive by plane, tourists who arrive by boat are also an important driver for tourism on Bonaire and Saba, and to a lesser extent St Eustatius. For Bonaire cruise ship passengers are a very important factor: in 2014 more cruise ship tourists than tourists arriving by air visited the island: 156 thousand and 130 thousand respectively. However, it is unclear how many passengers actually disembarked from the cruise ships to go ashore. Saba was visited by almost as many boat passengers as tourists by plane in 2014: 10.4 thousand and 10.3 thousand respectively. Over 60 percent of these boat passengers arrived on the two ferries which sail between St Maarten and Saba, although it is not yet possible to determined how many ferry passengers are residents and how many are tourists. For St Eustatius, relatively fewer tourist arrive by boat.
On average nearly 900 tourists per month arrive by plane
In 2014, an average of almost 900 tourists per month traveled to Saba by plane, bringing the total to 10,300 tourists. This number is comparable to that for 2013 and to the number of tourists traveling to St Eustatius by air in 2014. In Saba, too, most passengers arrived on small aircraft – around nineteen seats – from the international hub on St Maarten.
Dutch and Americans account for most foreign tourists arriving by air
On Saba, too, most tourists arriving by air in 2014 had the Dutch or American (including Puerto Rican) nationality. Through the years, the share of American tourists has been higher in Saba than in Bonaire and St Eustatius. Just as on Bonaire, the share of tourists with a Dutch nationality has decreased in the past three years.
Just over a fifth of the 10.3 thousand tourists who arrived on Saba by air stayed for only one day, a total of 2.4 thousand. The most popular length of stay for the other four-fifths was between 1 to 3 nights. The average length of stay for the latter group in 2014 was 6.9 nights, down from 7.6 nights. in 2013. The total number of nights spent by tourists arriving by air thus decreased. Calculated for all tourists who arrived by air – including day trippers -, the average length of stay was 5.3 nights in 2014 and 6.1 nights in 2013. Tourists stayed shorter on average on Saba than on Bonaire and St Eustatius.
Number of passengers by boat equal to the number of tourists by air
Like St Eustatius, it is difficult for large cruise ships to call at Saba. Neither does Saba have any protected harbours. However, two ferries connect Saba with St Maarten and there are anchorages for motor boats, yachts and other small vessels. A total 500 of these vessels called at Saba in 2014, carrying approximately 3.7 thousand tourists. An average of 7.4 passengers per vessel. The average length of stay was 2.1 days. The most common nationalities of the ships were American, French and British. The two ferries carried about 6.7 thousand passengers to Saba in 2014. However, it is not yet possible to determine how many of these ferry passengers are tourists and how many are residents. Neither is it known how long the tourists arriving by ferry stayed on Saba. It is expected that more information will become available on these subjects in the foreseeable future. Overall, approximately 10.4 thousand passengers, of whom a considerable share were tourists, arrived by ship in 2014. That is about the same as the number of tourists that arrived by air in that year.
On average 900 tourists per month arrive by plane
On average, about 900 tourists flew into St Eustatius per month in 2014, a total of nearly 11 thousand tourists. This is roughly the same as in 2013.
As for Bonaire and Saba, most tourists who flew into St Eustatius, had the Dutch or American (including Puerto Rican) nationality, although the share of American tourists is smaller in St Eustatius than in Bonaire and Saba.
Most planes flew in from St Maarten, which operates as a major international hub for tourists going to St Eustatius and Saba. Passengers are carried by small aircraft with a limited capacity of around nineteen passengers.
Just over half of tourists arriving by plane stay up to 7 nights
Of the 11 thousand tourists who arrived by air, 2,200 were day trippers. For the remainder the length of stay peaked at 1 to 3 nights. Just over half of tourists who arrived by air and spent at least one night stayed on St Eustatius for seven nights or less. The average length of stay of this group in 2014 was 9.7 nights, one night shorter than the 10.7 nights in 2013. As a result, the total number of nights spent by tourists arriving on St Eustatius by plane decreased between 2013 and 2014. If the average number of nights is calculated for all tourists who arrived by air – including day trippers – the average length of stay was 7.8 nights in 2014 and 8.7 nights in 2013.
Boat passengers account for 3.7 thousand tourists
Large cruise ships cannot dock at St Eustatius, and the island does not have a protected harbour. However, it does have moorings for small vessels. The 650 small vessels visiting the island in 2014, including motor boats, yachts and a small cruise ship, carried 3.7 thousand tourists, an average of 5.7 passengers per ship. The boats stayed in St Eustatius for 2.6 nights on average. These are higher numbers than in 2013. The most common nationalities of the vessels were American, French and Dutch.
The data in this article are provisional and based entirely on registers available to Statistics Netherlands (see also the methodological explanation (Dutch only):
Revisiting tourism flows to the Caribbean: what is driving arrivals?, IMF, December 2014 http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=42541.0>
Tourists are not only people who travel for leisure, but also people who travel for other purposes, e.g. business. Tourism includes daytrips as well as longer stays.
Tourists with the Dutch nationality not only include Dutch people from Europe (international market) but also Dutch citizens from the islands Aruba, St Maarten and Curaçao (local market). Tourists from Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba are seen as domestic tourists, and are not included in the figures. At the moment Statistics Netherlands is researching the possibility of using an extra (administrative) source so that it can publish the different Dutch groups of tourists separately.
Fewer tourists arrived by plane in June and July
This is consistent with the smaller number of passengers, including residents, who came to Bonaire by air in these months. This is may be the result of a decrease in the number of flights of a local airline from May 2014. Another explanation could be the FIFA World Cup in the same period, which may have kept Dutch tourists home. However, the decrease in the number of tourists arriving by air was not reflected in the figures for St Eustatius and Saba.
Press release RCN