Tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands 2012

In 2012 a total of 112 thousand tourists came by plane to the Caribbean Netherlands, including 40 percent from The Netherlands and 20 percent from the United States. Of these tourists 82 thousand flew to Bonaire, 19 thousand to St. Eustatius and 11 thousand to Saba.

The Caribbean Netherlands consists of the islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The tourism industry is playing an important role in the economy and employment on the Islands. This article gives an overview of some key indicators on tourism in the Dutch Caribbean in 2012. These are preliminary figures. The figures are compared with the figures of previous years published by among others the tourist offices of the three islands.

  1. Bonaire

Almost seven thousand tourists by plane per month

In 2012 82 thousand tourists came to Bonaire by plane, an average of 6.8 thousand per month. The trend for the months in 2012 is well comparable to the trends published by the Tourism Corporation Bonaire (TCB) for the years 2009 and 2010. The figures from 2012 are indeed higher: in 2010 there were a total of 70 thousand tourists coming to Bonaire by plane. Probably the market for tourism grew after the bad economic years 2009 and 2010. There might also be a method effect: the 2012 figures are completely based on available registers, before that the figures were based on collected registration cards at the border control.



Number of tourists arriving by plane, Bonaire

Most tourists who flew to Bonaire in 2012 came from The Netherlands (39 percent) and the United States (24 percent). Dutch tourists also include those coming from St. Eustatius and Saba. Tourists from Curaçao (14 percent) and Aruba (3 percent) are listed separately. The distribution is mainly similar to that from 2009 and 2010, but the percentage American tourists is slightly lower than the percentage the TCB published in 2009 and the Organization Bonaire Hotel and Tourism Association (BONHATA) published in 2011. Most flights came from or went to Curaçao, Aruba, Amsterdam, Atlanta and Houston. In 2012 Bonaire had no direct flights connections to and from St. Eustatius and Saba.


Inbound tourists by plane on Bonaire by country of origin




Half of the tourists stay on Bonaire for 1 to 7 nights


The tourists who came to Bonaire by plane in 2012, stayed on the island for an average of 7 nights. One in ten were day-trippers (no overnight stays) and more than half of the tourists stayed for 1 to 7 nights on Bonaire. Only 7% stayed 14 nights.


Numbers of overnight stays by tourists by plane on Bonaire, 2012

In 2013 Bonaire had almost 340 tourist accommodations of which 40 percent villas, 32 percent apartments, 14 percent hotels and resorts and 14 percent holiday homes. The total bed capacity was around 5500 beds. It should be noted that sometimes it was not clear whether all the houses of a bungalow park were offered for rental, or only a part of them. Also, villas for sale were often offered as a holiday home. Most beds were offered in the hotels and resorts (48 percent), followed by villas with 24 percent. Apartments offered 19 percent of the beds, and holiday homes 10 percent.

Many cruise ships to Bonaire

Bonaire has a natural harbor and two large piers, where also cruise ships can moor. In 2012 Bonaire had no regular ferry connection to other islands or the continent. In 2012 around 880 recreational crafts moored at Bonaire. These stayed for an average of 13.4 days and had an average of 3.1 passengers on board. Most recreational crafts came from or went to Curaçao. There were around 100 cruise ships, with an average of 1550 passengers on board. Most cruise ships arrived from Aruba for a last stop. The potential supply of day trippers by ship thus amply exceeded that of the number of tourists flying to Bonaire. It is not clear how many tourists from the cruise ships actually get off board in 2012.

  1. St. Eustatius

Monthly 1600 tourists by plane

In 2012 a little more than over 19 thousand tourists came to St. Eustatius by plane, an average of 1600 per month. Also here do the seasonal trends match well with the numbers for 2008 and 2009 published by the St. Eustatius Tourism Development (STD). The number of tourists registered by the CBS in 2012 is lower than the numbers published by the STD over the mentioned years. However, this can entirely be explained by the fact that in the figures of the STD all incoming air passengers were counted, including the residents of St.-Eustatius.

Numbers of inbound tourists by plane, St.-Eustatius

More than 40 percent of the tourists visiting St. Eustatius in 2012 were from other Caribbean Islands. The second and third countries of origin were The Netherlands (24 percent) and the United States (9 percent). The percentages are very comparable to that of 2009. Like on Bonaire, the number of American tourists in 2012 was slightly lower than reported by the STD. Most flights were from the neighboring island St Maarten. In addition, there was air traffic in 2012 coming from St. Kitts-Nevis and Saint-Barthélemy. These were also the main islands to which planes left.

Inbound tourists by plane on St. Eustatius to country of origin


Two out of ten tourists on St. Eustatius are day trippers

The tourists that arrived on St. Eustatius by plane in 2012, stayed for an average of 9 nights. This figure is somewhat distorted by tourists (including retirees) who stayed on the island for a month or longer. Two out of ten tourists were day-trippers (no overnight stay) and about 20 percent stayed for 1 or 2 nights. About 30 percent of the tourists stayed for 3 to 7 nights.

Number of overnight stays by tourists by plane on St. Eustatius, 2012


In 2013 St. Eustatius counted 13 accommodations for tourists, of which 38 percent hotels, 23 percent villas, 23 percent apartments and 15 percent holiday homes. The total bed capacity amounted to approximately 220 beds. Hotels and resorts offered most beds (67 percent), followed by villas (18 percent) and apartments (11 percent).

Mostly recreational boats to St.-Eustatius

St. Eustatius has no natural harbor, so no large cruise boats can come. In 2012 around the 540 yachts and motor vessels moored at the island. The small recreational boats stayed an average of 1.6 days and had average of 3.8 passengers on board. Most small recreational boats in 2012 came from or went to St. Kitts-Nevis, St Maarten and Saba. In addition, there were also 11 medium-sized tourist ships with more than 15 passengers. These ships stayed for an average of 0.7 days and had an average of 22 passengers on board. The ships mostly came from St. Maarten, Saba and the United States, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.



  1. Saba

Monthly 900 tourists by plane

Approximately 11 thousand tourists flew to Saba in 2012, an average of 900 per month. The figures are fairly similar to the figures for 2008 and 2009 from Saba Tourist Bureau (STB) and the figures from the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten.

Numbers of inbound tourists by plane, Saba


In 2012, most tourists on Saba came from The Netherlands (40 percent) and the United States (20 percent, including the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). Approximately one in ten tourists on Saba came from Canada and one in ten tourists was from the former Antilles or the other Caribbean Islands. These percentages are fairly similar to those from 2008 and 2009. As with Bonaire and St. Eustatius, the number of American tourists in 2012 was slightly lower than the numbers reported by the STB for 2008 and 2009. Air traffic in Saba was mainly submitted by St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saint-Barthélemy. These islands were also the most important destinations for departure.


Inbound tourists by plane on Saba by country of origin


One in five tourists on Saba is a day tripper

Tourists who came to Saba by plane in 2012 stayed for an average 5.5 nights. As with St. Eustatius these figures are somewhat distorted by tourists staying on Saba longer than 7 nights. Just over one in five tourists arrived for a day trip (no overnight stay) and a quarter stayed on the island for 1 or 2 nights.


Number of overnight stays for tourists by plane on Saba, 2012


Saba counted 38 accommodations for tourists in 2013 of which 55 percent holiday homes, 24 percent hotels, 18 percent villas and 3 percent apartments. The total bedroom capacity is approximately 330 beds. Hotels offered just over half of the total number of bedrooms (55 percent). This capacity is nearly twice as much as that of holiday homes (31 percent).


Cruise ships to Saba mainly from St Maarten

Saba has no natural harbors where large ships can moor. Next to recreational navigation, there is a limited degree of cruise shipping. However, Saba does have two small ferries that cruise between Saba and St. Maarten a few days a week.

In 2012 approximately 260 recreational crafts moored at Saba. The recreational boats stayed an average of 2.1 days and had an average of 14 passengers on board. The ferries from St. Martin made about 200 trips with an average number of 18.6 passengers. There were 6 cruises with an average of 86 passengers. Most recreational boats and cruises came from or went to St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis and Saint-Barthélemy.

Preliminary figures tourism Caribbean Netherlands 2012

The figures on tourism in the Caribbean Netherlands for 2012 are preliminary. The intention is to publish final results in the course of 2014. The figures are based entirely on available records of the marechaussee (Military Constabulary)and customs. This applies to air travel as well as shipping. Data from the harbor master were also used for Bonaire.

The calculations are based on a number of assumptions were used to do the calculations:

  1. To determine the number of tourists that came to one of the Islands by plane, the (average) ratio residents/non-residents was calculated for the whole year 2012 per island. For each month of the year this ratio was used to distinguish tourists from local passengers. The ratios per month did not vary much from the annual average.


  1. The feature “nationality” (from the registers) was used to determine “country of origin”. This can lead to some noise because residents of the Dutch Caribbean may have more than one nationality. Furthermore, inhabitants of the islands Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten have been wrongfully registered in 2012 as “residents” in some of the registers. An attempt has been made to correct this using the feature “country of birth”. The “Bevolkingsregister Caribisch Nederland” (PIVA = Persoonsinformatievoorziening Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba) will be used for the calculation of the final figures. In this way it can be better determined whether someone is actually a resident or not.
  2. The data on the available range of accommodations and bedrooms in the Caribbean Netherlands are largely taken from websites (Internet). So called “robots” were used to collect the data. The collected information has been processed and cleansed from any duplicate information as much as possible. When in doubt, a check is done whether the accommodation still existed. Where possible, data were compared and supplemented with existing data, such as those of companies that rent accommodations.
  3. Tourism is internationally defined as “the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for no more than one (consecutive) year, for reasons of leisure, business and other purposes that are not connected to the exercise of activities which are rewarded by the place that is visited”. It is not just about people who travel for their ‘leisure’, but also about people who travel for other purposes such as business and health. As for the duration of visits this report did not include visits of over more than 61 days in the calculation of the average number of overnight stays.