Caribbean Netherlands tourism recovered partially in 2021

Shopping street on Bonaire
© We Share Bonaire/Jan Wachtmeester
In 2021, inbound tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands showed signs of recovery. The signs were evident in the numbers of visitor arrivals by air on Saba and St Eustatius. At 44 thousand, fourth quarter visitor arrivals on Bonaire even exceeded the level of two years previously. This is shown by the latest figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Bonaire visitor arrivals by air
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In Q4 2021 Bonaire saw 44 thousand air visitor arrivals, i.e. 10 percent more than in the same period of 2019. The number of visitors already returned to its pre-pandemic level in the third quarter.

In the entire year 2021, 111 thousand visitors landed on Bonaire, i.e. 70 percent of total air arrivals in 2019.

Share of European Dutch visitors further up on Bonaire

On Bonaire, the share of visitors from the European Netherlands rose from 35 percent in 2019 to 55 percent in 2021. The share from Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten fell from 22 to 15 percent in the same period; the share from the United States declined as well, from 25 to 16 percent.

Cruise passenger traffic to Bonaire increasing again

Inbound tourism includes not only visitors arriving by air but also cruise passengers. Cruise traffic stopped when the measures against coronavirus took effect on Bonaire in mid-March 2020. Cruise ships only called at the port of Bonaire again as of September 2021. Whereas in November and December 2019 inbound cruise passenger traffic stood at approximately 52 thousand and 68 thousand respectively, there were merely around 18 and 35 thousand cruise passenger arrivals respectively in the same months of 2021.

Cruiseship passenger arrivals on Bonaire
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* provisional figures

Inbound air tourism on Saba still recovering

Saba received approximately 1,400 visitors by air in Q4 2021. This represents a 9-percent rise on the previous quarter. Despite the rise continuing into the fourth quarter, the number of visitor arrivals was still only 61 percent of the total two years previously (2,200 arrivals).

Last year, Saba received altogether approximately 4 thousand visitors. This is more than in 2020 - with only 2,700 visitors - but still lies 56 percent below the pre-pandemic level.

Saba visitor arrivals by air
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More people visiting St Eustatius again

In the fourth quarter of 2021, slightly under 1,200 air passengers arrived on St Eustatius. This is merely 45 percent of the number of visitors recorded two years previously.

Both St Eustatius and Saba have seen a consistent rise in the number of inbound tourists, although the numbers have not yet reached pre-pandemic levels. A total of 3,600 tourists visited St Eustatius last year, versus nearly 11 thousand in 2019. Tourist arrivals were slightly higher than one year previously, when they stood at 3,200; two thirds of the visitors in 2020 arrived in the first quarter of the year.