In 2020, tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands declined sharply due to the measures and flight restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Because the islands are relying on various measures to ward off COVID-19, the upturn in tourism differs per island. In June 2021, tourism on Bonaire had already reached almost 75 percent of the level of June 2019. On Saba and St. Eustatius, it was 43 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, of the level of June 2019. From the start of the pandemic up to and including June 2021, not a single cruise passenger has arrived on Bonaire. This is evident from new figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Please note the 2021 numbers are provisional and subject to change.
On Bonaire, tourism gradually increased from November 2020 but declined again in January 2021 and later in March due to government measures.
Since April 2021, tourism has picked up again from 3,400 visitors in April to 9,100 visitors in June. This increase can mainly be attributed to the fact that almost all airlines started flying again as they did in June 2019.
Due to the travel restrictions in place in many countries, the proportion of visitors with Dutch nationality increased significantly, from around 57 percent in 2019 to 75 percent in 2021. The share of visitors with US nationality decreased sharply, from 25 percent in 2019 to 9 percent in 2021.
Compared to 2020, tourism on Saba increased in the months of April, May and June. However, the number of visitors was still lower than before the coronavirus pandemic.
In June 2021, Saba attracted 300 visitors: 43 percent of the number in June 2019 (700 visitors). In the first three months of 2021, there were 100 visitors per month. This was due to strict entry restrictions on Saba, resulting in fewer flights to the island than before the coronavirus pandemic. On 1 May, Saba started reopening the island, which is reflected in the number of visitors.
St Eustatius links the relaxation of the restrictive measures for tourism to the vaccination rate of the population. In June 2021, there were 300 visitors, whereas in June 2019, there were still 900 people who visited St Eustatius. The proportion of visitors with Dutch nationality was 70 percent in 2021, versus approximately 50 percent in 2019. This can be explained by the fact that in the second phase of the reopening of St Eustatius, vaccinated residents of Saba, St Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire were admitted to the island without quarantine.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.