Caribbean Netherlands tourism hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Tour­ism in the Caribbean Netherlands was heavily impacted in 2020 by the measures and flight restric­tions due to the COVID-19 pan­demic. The number of visitors who flew to St. Eustatius and Saba last year was down by 69 and 67 per cent, respectively, relative to 2019. In Bonaire, 58 per cent fewer visitors arrived by air, it emerged from figures released Thesday by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS).

Visitors still flew to the Carib­bean Netherlands in the first two months of 2020. On March 14, 2020, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba closed their airspace to in­bound passenger traffic from Europe and other high-risk coun­tries.

Visitor numbers in Statia in Jan­uary and February 2020 were sim­ilar to those in 2019. The number of visitors dropped in March and subsequently did not exceed 200 per month.

There were 69 per cent fewer visitors arriving by air over 2020.

This amounted to 3,300 vis­itors, down from 10,500 in 2019. The decrease in visi­tor numbers was largest in the second quarter of last year at 96 per cent. How­ever, the third and fourth quarters of 2020 also saw substantially lower visitor numbers compared to 2019, at 81 and 80 per cent lower, respectively, the CBS said. Last year’s visitors to Sta­tia mainly came from St. Maarten, Aruba or Cura­cao (around 31 per cent) and from the European Netherlands (around 22 per cent). Residents of the United States and the Dominican Republic ac­counted for 10 and seven per cent of all visitors, re­spectively. These percent­ages are similar to those of 2019. The decline in visitor numbers has affected all nationalities equally.

The number of visitors to Saba in January and Febru­ary 2020 was still similar to the number for the same period in 2019, until tour­ism came to a halt after the introduction of the COV­ID-19 measures.

From June through No­vember 2020, visitor num­bers did not exceed 100 per month. Approximately 200 visitors arrived in Decem­ber. For the whole year, the decline in the number of visitors arriving by air stood at 67 per cent.





Like the other islands in the Caribbean Nether­lands, Saba also experi­enced the largest drop in visitor arrivals in the sec­ond quarter of the year (94 per cent), with substantially lower numbers in the third and fourth quarters as well compared to 2019, at a de­cline of 86 and 87 per cent, respectively.

Most visitors to Saba were Americans (around 27 per cent), followed by citizens of St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao (around 21 per cent) and the European Netherlands (approximately 19 per cent). There were also relatively many visitors from Canada at ap­proximately seven per cent. Compared to 2019, par­ticularly fewer European Dutch nationals came to Saba in 2020.

Bonaire received 66,000 visitors last year compared with nearly 158,000 in 2019, which is a 58-per-cent de­crease. Visitor numbers were still up in January and February, by 6.7 per cent relative to 2019. There was still an upturn in July and August 2020 due to a relax­ation of the measures, but the number of visitors re­mained far below the level of 2019. Bonaire received slightly more visitors again in December.

The decline in Bonaire’s visitor numbers was stron­gest between April and June 2020 at 97 per cent year-on-year. According to the World Tourism Organi­zation (WTO), a similar de­cline was seen for the Ca­ribbean region as a whole.

The visitor numbers to Bonaire fell less rapidly in the final quarters of 2020, by 59.7 and 67.9 per cent, respectively, than in the Caribbean as a whole (80.6 and 73.7 per cent).

The visitors who came to Bonaire in 2020 were main­ly European-Dutch nation­als (around 43 per cent) and visitors from Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten (around 23 per cent). US citizens accounted for a sig­nificant part of the visitors as well, at around 16 per cent. Due to flight restric­tions, the share of Ameri­cans decreased in particu­lar relative to 2019, by nine percentage points.

2020 was a difficult year for cruise tourism as well. The number of cruise pas­sengers to Bonaire in Janu­ary and February still grew by around 22 per cent rela­tive to the same months in 2019. After the COVID-19 measures took effect in mid-March, cruise traffic stopped and did not pick up again for the rest of 2020. As a result, the number of cruise passengers calling at Bonaire was approximately 62 per cent lower in 2020 than in the previous year.

The Daily Herald.

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