Feature Story XpBonaire islandLife
The recent developments around the world have even impacted the small island paradise of Bonaire with full force. Some of us stay calm, while others see their life and future crumbling right before their eyes. We agree on one thing. These are tough times, but how and where do we go from here?
An island resident since the early 90’s, Deepak Daryanani, property owner, developer, landlord and owner of the liquor store, Best Cellars, has seen many stages in the development of the island. “The corona pandemic is something 98% of the population has never experienced before. It is like going to an operation that you never had, nerve-racking!” is how Deepak describes his feeling when we closed our borders to the rest of the world.
“The businesses on the island, like resorts, restaurants, car rentals, hotels, shops and activities are not meant to serve a population of +20,000 and reserves are slowly deteriorating,” is what concerns Deepak. Nonetheless, Deepak agrees with the recent decision made by the island government to welcome guests back on the island slowly and securely. With the cruise ship terminal completely shut down, he still backs their choice not to open up for cruise ships yet, since they are in the high risk category and would bring thousands of people a day.
“We have to focus on the bigger picture and see it as a blessing, that in these circumstances we have the support, know-how and protection of the Netherlands and Europe. This situation is as bad as a hurricane, and we would not have been able to stay afloat by ourselves.”
An island resident for almost 30 years, he has seen Bonaire develop into what it is today. “Bonaire is my home and I believe in the Bonairean people. They have built, and decided to become, a tourist island and protect the nature, understanding its value. Bonaire has created a thriving and growing economy over the years. It was not done by anyone else! The resilience and the ability to recreate ourselves is something you will find on Bonaire time and time again, no matter what is thrown our way!”
“For the coming future, it is important that we stay united and rebuild our economy together!” In Deepak’s opinion, now is not the time to play, introducing new approaches should wait until we have stabilized our economy again so we can all survive. Creating exclusive tourism now would exclude island guests that we need right now and we first have to create the infrastructure to welcome guests who demand a higher level of quality and comfort.”
“The situation also gives us the opportunity to get to know our island customers and their wishes and needs! Growing from 13,000 to almost 21,000 residents in 10 years’ time never gave us this chance, but now!“
United – One Punch
“Growing back our tourism and stabilizing our economy again should be the priority of all sectors,” he stated. “We have to be one punch, the government, TCB, BONHATA, STINAPA, real estate and the private sector.” In Deepak’s opinion we have to welcome our guests back with open arms and not treat them as a health threat. “We also need to welcome our cruise guests back when it is safe. No matter some divisions, it is a pillar of our economy that many rely on.”
Sustainable development by demand
“Sustainable development of Kralendijk and its surrounding is important to create new business opportunities, like agriculture, that would make us less dependent on import and shipping and would be beneficial for our health and produce quality. In history, Bonaire has been the food producer for the surrounding islands, we can be that again!” Deepak states.
“Kralendijk has still plenty of empty lots where new services for our residents and guests could be developed.” Deepak himself started an expansion into the Hato shopping district and continued the construction all through Covid 19. The expansion will be completed in August/ September of this year.
He also hopes for fast decision-making and the start of a new container pier. “When I heard about the container pier plans, I popped open a bottle of champagne all by myself! This is what I have been fighting for, for many years!” Deepak explains: “We have to become independent of Curacao. Having our own container pier would also lower the cost of shipping and handling, which would result in lower prices on almost everything for our end consumer. “
“I believe in our strength and resilience. At the end we will get out of this in flying colors!“ is how Deepak ended our conversation.