By Alexander Britell
The Dutch Caribbean Island of Curaçao is showing solid tourism growth, but it’s dreaming even bigger.
An island known best for what is one of the region’s most culturally interesting cities, Willemstad, is looking to ramp up its growth, according to Hugo Clarinda, Deputy Director of the Curaçao Tourist Board.
And a major part of that push will be focused on the US market, Clarinda said in an interview with Caribbean Journal.
The island isn’t starting from scratch, however.
Last year, the island reported 3.1 percent stayover tourist growth overall, with a total of 61,593 arrivals from the US market.
That represented a 15.3 percent increase in US tourism compared to the previous year, while Canadian tourism jumped by 45.5 percent.
The US push is part of the island’s tourism Master Plan, which was developed last year and will begin being implemented this year.
Clarinda said the island’s tourist board would be focusing on specific US markets that it had identified for growth, though he wouldn’t reveal which ones.
Of course, the island is also being helped significantly by new flights from JetBlue which launched late in 2014 and will expand to three weekly flights out of New York by the end of this year, a point underscored by Clarinda.
“The JetBlue flight is doing very, very well and JetBlue is very happy,” Clarinda said. “It’s even above their expectations. At the end we want to reach daily flights in a few years — that’s what we hope to achieve.”
He also said Curaçao hoped that next year there would be flights starting from other US cities to the island, like the recent launch by American Airlines of service from Charlotte last year.
Utlimately, the goal is to shine a light on what Clarinda says is a unique kind of tourism destination in the Caribbean.
“What we are trying to explain Curaçao, although it’s in the Caribbean, it’s a little bit different from the other Caribbean islands,” he said. “Most Caribbean islands have nice beaches – all have nice beaches — most have beautiful weather, you have sun, but that’s something most have. Curaçao is a little different, in that we have a little bit more in history, in culture, the architecture of the downtown area.”
“What we are trying to sell a lot is the people of Curaçao — because we have various research surveys asking visitors what they like more about Curaçao, after they visit, and most of them say they like the people of Curaçao,” he said. “We’re trying to portray the people of Curaçao as a differentiation. It’s something all the visitors say that’s the thing they like.”