Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic
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.
69 percent fewer visitors to St Eustatius
In January and February, visitor numbers on St Eustatius were still similar to those in 2019. The number of visitors dropped in March and subsequently did not exceed 200 per month. Over the whole of 2020, there were 69 percent fewer visitors arriving by air: 3.3 thousand, down from 10.5 thousand in 2019. On St Eustatius, too, the decrease in the number of visitors was largest in Q2 (96 percent). However, Q3 and Q4 saw substantially lower visitor numbers as well compared to 2019 (81 and 80 percent lower respectively).
Last year, St Eustatius was visited mainly by people from St Maarten, Aruba or Curaçao (around 31 percent) and by European Dutch citizens (around 22 percent). Americans and Dominicans accounted for 10 and 7 percent of all visitors. These percentages are similar to 2019. The decline in visitor numbers has affected all nationalities equally.
67 percent fewer visitors to Saba
In January and February 2020, the number of visitors to Saba was still similar to the same period in 2019. Tourism came to a halt after the introduction of the COVID-19 measures. From June through November, 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 percent. Just as the other islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, Saba also experienced the largest drop in visitor arrivals in Q2 (94 percent), with substantially lower numbers in Q3 and Q4 as well compared to 2019 (86 and 87 percent lower respectively).
Most visitors who came to Saba were Americans (around 27 percent), followed by citizens of St Maarten, Aruba or Curaçao (around 21 percent) and the European Netherlands (around 19 percent). There were also relatively many visitors from Canada (approximately 7 percent). Compared to 2019, fewer European Dutch nationals in particular came to Saba in 2020.
A Papiamentu translation of this news release can be obtained from Statistics Netherlands’ office on Bonaire by sending a request via email to: email@example.com
StatLine – Caribbean Netherlands: inbound tourism by air
StatLine – Caribbean Netherlands: inbound tourism by air, nationality
Cruise passengers Bonaire
Website - World Tourism Barometer UNWTO
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.