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Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

Press Release CBS

In 2020, tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands was heavily impacted by the measures and flight restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The number of visitors who flew to St Eustatius and Saba last year was down by 69 and 67 percent respectively relative to 2019. On Bonaire, 58 percent fewer visitors arrived by air. This is evident from figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

In the first two months of 2020, there were still visitors flying to the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. On 14 March 2020, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba closed their air space for inbound passenger traffic from Europe and from other high-risk countries.

58 percent fewer visitors to Bonaire

Last year, Bonaire received 66 thousand visitors as against nearly 158 thousand in 2019, i.e. a 58-percent decrease. Visitor numbers were still up in January and February, by 6.7 percent relative to 2019. After implementation of the COVID-19 measures in mid-March, tourism came to a virtual standstill. In July and August, there was still an upturn due to a relaxation of the measures, but the number of visitors remained far below the level of 2019. In December, Bonaire received slightly more visitors again.

The decline in Bonaire’s visitor numbers was strongest in Q2 2020: 97 percent year-on-year. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a similar decline was seen for the Caribbean region as a whole. In Q3 and Q4 2020, the number of visitors to Bonaire fell less rapidly (by 59.7 and 67.9 percent respectively) than to the Caribbean as a whole (80.6 and 73.7 percent respectively).

Mainly fewer Americans visiting Bonaire

The visitors who came to Bonaire in 2020 were mainly Dutch nationals from Europe (around 43 percent) and visitors from Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten (around 23 percent). US citizens accounted for a significant part of the visitors as well (around 16 percent). Due to flight restrictions, the share of Americans decreased in particular relative to 2019 (9 percentage points).

Bad year for cruise tourism on Bonaire

2020 was a difficult year for cruise tourism as well. In January and February, the number of cruise passengers to Bonaire still grew by around 22 percent 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 percent lower in the whole of 2020 than in the previous year. In the summer months, there are always fewer cruise ships going to Bonaire because of the hurricane season.

Relevant links Website - World Tourism Barometer UNWTO

Explanation *Visitors

Visitors include both day trippers and people who spend at least one day for recreational, work or other purposes.

Visitors from the islands of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius are considered domestic visitors and are not counted towards inbound tourism.

The figures on tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands are based on existing registers. They are rounded to the nearest hundred.

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