Curacao's U.S. visitor numbers topped 50,000 for the first time in 2011, up from 48,600 in 2010.
In fact, the magic number was reached in October, and with the winter season off to a strong start, the 2011 year-end figures could well top 60,000.
"The numbers are great, and we will capitalize on that as we focus on the Curacao brand, message and marketing strategies in 2012," said Curacao Tourist Board CEO Ghatim Kabbara.
The challenge is how to position Curacao as a destination with travel experiences that range from submarine dives to the traditional sun and sand, Kabbara said.
Growth has traditionally come from Europe, particularly the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia, but growth now is strong from North and South America, not only in stayover visitors but also in the cruise market. The Florida Caribbean Cruise Association selected Curacao as the site of its 2012 annual conference, an indicator of the recognition of Curacao as a cruise destination, according to Kabbara.
Tourists have a choice of traditional activities such as golf, dolphin swims, watersports and dive excursions, or they can try Curacao's more unusual offerings.
One such activity, the Substation Curacao Submarine program, takes visitors to depths between 400 and 700 feet to view marine life. Prices range from $425 per person for a 40-minute dive to $800 per person for a night dive of an hour and 15 minutes.
Another unusual program is on the drawing board for 2014. Space Expedition Curacao will enable tourists to experience zero gravity aboard a rocket-like aircraft that will head 60 miles above the Earth. KLM and other partners are involved in the venture, and program details are still to be worked out, Kabbara said.
"We don't want to stick to the stereotypical activities offered on a Caribbean vacation," Kabbara said. "We're taking visitor experiences to a new level."
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