WILLEMSTAD, Curacao -- "Calling all Yankees" seems to be the motto
of late here on Curacao.
That's because North American visitors currently account for
less than 20% of all travelers to Curacao, and "we want to expand
that market," according to James Hepple, executive director of the
Curacao Tourist Board.
This year, traffic from North America grew by 8% in six of the
eight months from January through August; officials said they
expect the overall visitor increase will reach 4% by year's end
compared with 2002.
"Curacao is a favorite with Europeans, South Americans and many
Caribbean residents," Hepple said. "We want more visitors from the
U.S. and Canada."
Curacao averages 220,000 stayover visitors a year and 300,000
"We are not a mass market," Hepple said. "However, we would like
to see our 40,000 North American visitors grow to 80,000 a year by
tapping into niche markets such as Jewish heritage and gay
Hepple cited the latest survey in Conde Nast Traveler, which
asked readers to indicate any interest in visiting Curacao.
"In the spring of 2001, Curacao wasn't on the list," Hepple
said. "A year later, 3% of those surveyed said they were interested
in visiting Curacao; by the spring of 2003, that figure had risen
He added that "there is a lack of awareness about Curacao in the
marketplace, but that is beginning to change."
A new immigration card asks departing visitors to comment about
their stay in Curacao; since September, 10,000 visitors have filled
out the card, and 97% said they would recommend Curacao to
The card also asks visitors to compare their actual on-island
experience with their expectations before they arrived.
"Those answers have been very positive," Hepple said.
Curacao's tourism budget for marketing and promoting the
destination in North American and European markets has increased
substantially, thanks to project assistance from the Dutch
government, according to Hepple.
This winter, Gogo Worldwide Vacations is running a nonstop
charter to Curacao from Boston from Christmas through mid-April;
Apple Vacations West began a seasonal Chicago-Curacao operation
Hotel development is keeping pace with the new tourism
awareness. The 100-room Hotel Kura Hulanda, the historic
18th-century village complex within Willemstad, is adding 17 rooms
and opening a casino and the Anne Frank Museum.
Also in Willemstad, the 196-room Hilton Curacao (formerly the
Sheraton) completes a $5 million renovation this month, and the
Curacao Howard Johnson Plaza is adding 25 rooms.
The World Trade Center's $20 million renovation soon will be
complete; there are plans to add a 200-room hotel within the
complex, with completion projected for next summer.
More than 12,000 travel agents will be courted by Curacao
tourism officials at trade shows and in sales calls next year,
For information regarding the destination, visit www.curacao-tourism.com.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].