In 2019, the number of visitor arrivals by air on Bonaire increased by 7 percent relative to the previous year. On Saba, the increase was 10 percent, while the number of visitor arrivals on St Eustatius remained the same. Tourism across the entire Caribbean region grew by 4.9 percent last year. Just as in previous years, most visitors were from the Netherlands, the United States, and from Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of new figures on tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The number of visitors arriving on Bonaire by air rose from 147.8 thousand in 2018 to 157.8 thousand in 2019. Nearly half originated from Europe (49 percent), with the Netherlands accounting for 39 percent. This is similar to previous years. Furthermore, Bonaire has many cruise passengers visiting the island: 458 thousand in 2019, representing a 15-percent increase. Cruise tourism growth was mainly seen in the low season (May through October).
Substantial increase in visitor arrivals on Saba
Saba also recorded an increase in the number of visitors arriving by air last year: 8.9 thousand, versus 8.1 thousand in 2018. It had declined in the two years prior to 2019, mainly due to hurricanes Matthew (September 2016) and Irma (September 2017). Most visitors were from Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten. American and European Dutch visitors were good for 25 and 18 percent respectively.
In 2019, Saba also received 6.5 thousand ferry passengers from St Maarten, i.e. an increase of 20 percent on the previous year. Another 1.6 thousand passengers arrived on the island on two smaller cruise ships.
Number of visitors to St Eustatius unchanged
In contrast to Bonaire and Saba, the number of visitor arrivals by air on St Eustatius in 2019 did not rise compared to the previous year. A possible explanation is that the number of air passengers did not go up either last year. In fact, there were fewer inbound flights.
Similar to Bonaire, most visitors on St Eustatius were from Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten (31 percent), the European Netherlands (22 percent) and the United States (11 percent).
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.