Curacao is celebrating its Covid rebound with eased entry requirements, a slew of new hotels under construction and new entertainment venues open and in the works.
"'Bon bini' is our way of saying 'welcome' to one and all, and this year it has even more meaning than ever before," said Hugo Clarinda, deputy director of tourism and currently interim managing director of the Curacao Tourist Board.
Clarinda, a 20-year veteran in the tourism industry, is a happy man these days. He said he'd seen "continuous growth" in U.S. arrivals since July, as well as from Europe, especially the Netherlands.
Although visitor traffic dipped a bit this past winter due to the rise of the Omicron variant, "there's been an uptick in bookings since then, and our summer business is looking very good," Clarinda said.
New resort plans on Curacao
The island has 7,500 rooms open in hotels and resorts, villas, apartments and Airbnbs, with more than 750 more rooms slated to open in the coming months.
Sandals Royal Curacao, set to open in June 1 with 351 guestrooms and suites in 24 room categories, "will have a big impact with bookings from the U.S. and could result in expanded airlift," according to Clarinda.
He added that the island economy would benefit from the hiring of hundreds of local residents for the Sandals team.
Zoetry Curacao Resort & Spa, which opened in December, plans to add 52 suites, and the Courtyard by Marriott will open in October.
What's new in Willemstad
Kura Hulanda in the capital of Willemstad had once been a centerpiece for the island but had fallen into disrepair. The site has been purchased by eight locals and is being reinvented to serve both as a hotel and a community gathering spot with restaurants and nightlife venues. Curacao's walkable Pietermaai District in the center of Willemstad has had a huge makeover after a long period of neglect, according to Clarinda.
"It's now lively, colorful, fun, great nightlife, dining and entertainment. It's a real draw for visitors and buzzes with energy and activity," he said.
Another popular area is the historic Punda neighborhood, location of the waterfront collection of multicolored buildings that are the signature image of the island.
"There's a lot going all over the island with new restaurants, music, live entertainment, art galleries, workshops that focus on ancestral cooking techniques, and always the beaches, the waters and the dive sites," Clarinda said.
Covid entry requirements on Curacao
Curacao welcomes all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, and
requires only an online digital immigration card prior to arrival. Gone
also are the mask mandates, quarantines and the nightly curfew.
Most hotels and resorts offer onsite testing facilities for travelers returning to or entering the U.S.
"We have done well with our vaccination campaigns here," Clarinda
said. More than 80% of the island has been vaccinated and 50% boosted,
Although airlift is not yet up to pre-pandemic levels, it has "solid"
operations going with American's two daily Miami flights and a weekly
from Charlotte and three JetBlue weekly flights out of Newark, he said.
The tourist board recently launched its digital deals portal. Updated seasonally, the site serves as a resource where travelers can view the island's top offers. The current Spring, Sun and Savings seasonal promotion runs through June 30 and features discounted rates and VIP perks at 12 participating properties.