Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands 2012-2014

17/12/2014 15:00

Just under 150 thousand tourists flew to the Caribbean Netherlands in 2012. In 2013 this was slightly more: around 152 thousand. This number includes both holidaymakers and business visitors. In the first half of 2014, 77 thousand tourists arrived at the airports of the Caribbean Netherlands. Most of the tourists came from the United States (including Puerto Rico) and the Netherlands (including Aruba, Curaçao  and St Maarten).

Air passengers arriving in the Caribbean Netherlands (including day trips)

Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands 2012-2014

A substantial number of visitors to the islands arrives by boat. On Bonaire these are mostly cruise passengers: the number of cruise passengers (146 thousand) was even higher than the number of tourists arriving by air  (131 thousand). Exact data on the share of cruise passengers that leave the ships are not available, however. St Eustatius and Saba do not have ports suitable for cruise ships. Visitors travelling by water to these islands do so on smaller vessels, or on the ferry from St Maarten.
The figures in this article are based on a number of administrative sources to which Statistics Netherlands has access (see also Method).

1. Bonaire

Around 11 thousand tourists a month arrive by plane

Air passengers arriving in Bonaire

Air passengers arriving in Bonaire

In 2012 an average 10.5 thousand tourists per month came to Bonaire by plane. For the whole of 2012, the number was well over 126 thousand. In 2013 the total number of incoming air passengers rose to 130.5 thousand, an increase of 3.5 percent. Many flights came from Curaçao, Aruba, Amsterdam, Atlanta and Houston.

Both in 2012 and in 2013, most tourists came from the United States (including Puerto Rico) and the Netherlands. Dutch tourists include not only those from Europe, but also those from the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles: Aruba, St Maarten and Curaçao. This explains why the figures published by Tourism Corporation Bonaire (TCB) for 2006 to 2010 were lower: these figures did not include tourists from St Maarten and Curaçao, for example.

Preliminary figures for the first six months of 2014 show a similar picture as in 2013.

Air passengers arriving in Bonaire by nationality1)

Air passengers arriving in Bonaire by nationality1)

Half of Bonaire tourists stay one week or less

Over half of tourists who came to Bonaire by plane in 2012 and 2013 spent seven nights or less on the island, with the highest peak for seven nights. For tourists who spent at least one night on the island, the average number of nights was nine, both in 2012 and 2013.
Twelve percent of tourists flying to Bonaire in 2012 came for just one day. In 2013 this figure was slightly lower: just under 11 percent.

Incoming tourists by plane, by number of overnight stays, Bonaire

Incoming tourists by plane, by number of overnight stays, Bonaire

More visitors arrive by cruise ship than by plane

Many large and small cruise ships visit Bonaire. These cruise ships account for nearly all visitors arriving on the island by sea. The number of cruise passengers is larger than the total number of tourists who fly to Bonaire. However, tourists who come by plane stay on the island longer. In 2012 158 thousand cruise passengers visited Bonaire. The average number of passengers per cruise was approximately 1,500. In 2013 the number of cruise passengers was slightly lower: 142 thousand. It is not known how many cruise passengers actually go ashore.

The number of other vessels calling at Bonaire was 880 and 920 for 2012 and 2013 respectively, with an average of 3 passengers per boat. They stayed for an average 17 nights in 2012 and 15 nights in 2013. These relatively long periods – on average cruise ships stay no longer than one day – is probably due to the fact that Bonaire has a well-protected marina.

For 2014, this first impression of the number of visitors arriving by boat is similar to that of 2013. In the first half of 2014, approximately 105 thousand ship passengers came to Bonaire. Figure 5 clearly shows that cruises are a seasonal phenomenon: hardly any ships come to Bonaire in the summer months.

Cruise passengers, Bonaire

Cruise passengers, Bonaire

2. St. Eustatius

One thousand air passengers per month

On average, just over one thousand tourists per month arrived in St Eustatius by plane, a total of almost 13 thousand. This was slightly lower in 2013: just under 11 thousand tourists. As this number includes business visitors, the decrease may have been caused by the termination of activities of an oil transhipment company. Preliminary figures for 2014 show a similar picture as that of 2013. In both 2012 and 2013 most tourists came to St. Eustatius in July. However, this conclusion should be treated with caution, as the monthly figures for St Eustatius and Saba are based on annual averages of air passengers based on the ratio non-residents (tourists) to residents. For Bonaire, the monthly ratio could be calculated more accurately because of the larger number of air passengers.

Air passengers arriving in St. Eustatius

Air passengers arriving in St. Eustatius

As is the case for Bonaire, most tourists flying to St Eustatius came from the Netherlands (including Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten) and the United States. Most planes flew in from St. Maarten, which functions as an international hub for passengers travelling to St Eustatius and Saba.

Air passengers arriving in St. Eustatius by nationality1)

Air passengers arriving in St. Eustatius by nationality1)

1) 2014 percentages are based on the first six months.
2) The Netherlands includes tourists from Aruba, St. Maarten and Curaçao.

Most tourists stay on St Eustatius for less than four nights

Just as on Bonaire nearly half of tourists spend seven nights or less on St Eustatius, with a peak for one to three nights. The average number of nights spent by tourists staying for at least one night fell by one night from 2012 to 11 nights in 2013. The number of visitors flying to St Eustatius for just the day was 2,500 and 2,100 respectively in 2012 and 2013.

Air passengers arriving in St Eustatius, by number of overnight stays

Air passengers arriving in St Eustatius, by number of overnight stays

Two thousand visitors per year arrive by boat

Cruise ships cannot dock at St Eustatius.  Smaller vessels sailing to St. Eustatius mainly carry tourists. St Eustatius does not have a natural harbour. In 2012, 2 thousand tourists came St. Eustatius by water: 560 boats with an average of 3.5 passengers. The boats, mostly yachts and motor cruisers, anchored at St Eustatius for an average of 1.5 nights. In 2013 a total of 530 boats carrying  2.1 thousand visitors docked at the island, an average of 4.0 passengers per boat. The boats stayed for an average 1.6 nights in 2013. Preliminary figures for the first half of 2014 show a similar picture as for 2013.

3. Saba

Nearly 900 tourists per month arrive by air

In 2012 an average of almost 900 tourists per month came to Saba by plane, a total of 10.5 thousand tourists. In 2013 this number was almost the same: 10.3 thousand. Figures for the first months of 2014 are similar to those of 2013.

Air passengers arriving in Saba

Air passengers arriving in Saba

Dutch and Americans account for most air passengers on Saba

On Saba too, most tourists arriving at the airport come from the Netherlands (including Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten) and the United States. The share of Americans is clearly larger on Saba than on Bonaire and St Eustatius.

Air passengers arriving in Saba by nationality1)

Air passengers arriving in Saba by nationality1)

1) 2014 percentages are based on the first six months.
2) The Netherlands includes tourists from Aruba, St Maarten and Curaçao.

Most planes arriving in Saba come from the international hub of St Maarten; they are small aircraft with a capacity of around 20 passengers.

Just as on the other two islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, on Saba too over half of the tourists coming by plane stay for one week or less. There is a peak for overnight stays between 1 to 3 nights. For tourists spending at least one night on the island, the average number of nights was 8 in both 2012 and 2013. This is somewhat shorter than on Bonaire and St. Eustatius.

Air passengers arriving in Saba, by number of overnight stays

Air passengers arriving in Saba, by number of overnight stays

Pleasure craft and ferries in Saba

Cruise ships do not sail to Saba, as - like S. Eustatius - it does not have a natural harbour. Two ferries sail to and from St Maarten and there are anchorages for yachts and motor cruisers. It was not possible to determine how many boat passengers were residents and how many were non-residents (i.e. tourists), or how long they stayed on the island.

Sources:
- Customised tables P.M. (is still being worked on)
- The Caribbean Netherlands in figures 2013
- Methodological justification