Published On: Thu, Sep 11th, 2014

Travel Pulse: “Curacao’s efforts to court U.S. visitors are ready for takeoff”

CuracaoJetBlue's launch of direct flights from New York to Curaçao, announced Wednesday, will invigorate the Dutch Caribbean nation’s recent efforts to expand its U.S. visitor base, said Stanley Palm, the country's minister of economic development.

JetBlue’s non-stop service from New York to Curaçao will launch on Dec. 2, 2014, making JetBlue the only airline offering non-stop flights between New York to Curaçao.

“We have been working closely with the team at JetBlue to bring this flight to the island and are thrilled it has come to fruition,” said Palm, speaking at a New York media gathering Wednesday. He said Curaçao, represented by the Curaçao Tourist Board, is expanding its outreach to North American travelers.

“We have been drawing folks lately from the European and South American markets,” Palm said. “Now going forward we are going to be focusing a little more on the North American market.”

Despite its comparatively low profile among North Americans when compared with other Caribbean destinations, Curaçao tourism has grown steadily in recent years, said Palm. The Caribbean Tourism Organization reports Curaçao hosted 440,044 overnight visitors in 2013, a 4.9 percent increase over 2012. The country is also a strong player in cruise tourism, drawing 610,186 cruise ship visitors in 2013, a whopping 41.4 percent increase over 2012.

“The last 10 years the tourism numbers have more than doubled, so tourism has been very good to us,” Palm said. “But we are a very diversified economy that’s a bit different from the other countries in the region.

“Most of the islands depend solely on tourism. But for us, tourism accounts for 25 percent of our economy,” he said. “But it is growing steadily and that’s why this market is very important for us. We believe have a lot more opportunities and we can do a lot better than we’re doing right now.”

The JetBlue flights will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Curaçao International Airport. “We are excited to be able to offer customers the only non-stop route from New York to Curaçao ,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s President.

JetBlue now flies to 31 Caribbean destinations, said Hayes, and offers “more nonstop flights to the Caribbean than any other airline.”

“Based on all the studies that we have done, it appears what the average visitor to the Caribbean vacation wants is the same – the sea, the sun and the sand,” Palm said. “But we have something different, our people that differentiates us.”

“Curaçao is diverse, it’s history, it’s culture, it’s snorkeling, it’s diving; there are events going on,” said Andre Rojer, the Curaçao Tourist Board’s marketing manager, North America. “So it’s for the adventurous traveler.”

He added, “Statistically, it doesn’t show a strong spike in any one of those segments. There is Carnival, there is a jazz festival – it’s a destination that suits everybody.”

Curaçao resorts are partnering with the Tourist Board to offer packages available for booking through Sept. 15, 2014. The packages feature up to 50 percent off rates at hotels, dive operators and attractions. The packages apply to travel from Sept. 15 through Dec.15, 2014.

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