Curacao GTS, May 24 – 26, reveals plans for substantial growth

The Curacao Global Trade Symposium 2022, attracted more than 125 delegates, from among the island’s partners, airlines, travel organizations, hotel room & activity vendors, buyers, and press from North-, South- and Latin America. Regional members of the media rounded up the list of invitees.

CHATA, the Curacao Hotel and Tourism Association in collaboration with CTB, the Curacao Tourism Board, created a mega 4-day program. I will try to capture highlights of the experience for my readers.

Bottom line: Curacao will be growing its room inventory from between three/four-thousand rooms to six-thousand, within three years, which means doubling its current capacity.

For 2022, 30% growth is projected.

The island has a lot to offer in a unique cocktail of color, authenticity, art, heritage, adventure, romance and culinary offerings besides the obvious blue water and white beaches. Over the last decade the people of Curacao have grown to understand that tourism is their lifeline, and the service they deliver now combines with relaxed friendliness. It upped their game a few notches.

The reason for the building-push lies in the decline of the refinery as an economic pillar. Moreover, the financial sector, previously doing brisk business off-shore, encountered regulatory obstacles, and was forced to curb its activities.

Consequently, hospitality is it. And the GTS 2022 was summoned to witness Curaçao’s booming tourism industry and to feel the new vibe, firsthand.

According to Maria-Helena Seferina–Rojas, CHATA’s Managing Director, Curaçao is currently experiencing a surge of new hotel developments, and re-brands by top players in the industry, at an unprecedented level of investment — a first in the island’s tourism history.

The fully renovated Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, in 2020, ushered in the new era. The stylish resort played host to the Global Trade Symposium Marketplace, during two days. That world-renowned brand was joined by other world-class players, upscale all-inclusive options such as Dreams Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, Zoëtry Curaçao Resort & Spa, and opening mid-June, Sandals Royal Curaçao, the former Hyatt. The first phase of the Mangrove Beach Corendon Curaçao All-Inclusive Resort, flagged as Curio by Hilton is fully operational while phase two is now under construction, to open at the end of 2023; a massive Marriott Courtyard complex, combined with a retail plaza is growing adjacent to the Mega Pier.

Add to that list Elements hotel in Willemstad, the renovations at the former Kura Hulanda, now baptized as Kura Botanica, the new Kontiki Luxury Suites, and numerous others.

Many of the island’s properties are now internationally branded, two Marriott varieties, two AMHotels, under the Hyatt umbrella, Wyndham, and Hilton, contributing to the island’s success with their own marketing machines, catering to guests from Europe, South America, North America and the rest of the planet.

Seferina – Rojas addressed the GTS as part of the official opening ceremony, inviting delegates to witness this booming new Curacao during their visit, or as the slogan says FEEL IT FOR YOURSELF.

The island’s recovery from the pandemic has been good, she explained, attracting a high number of visitors since July of last year.

Hugo Clarinda, the Deputy Director of the Curacao Tourism Board was on hand to welcome delegates at the opening ceremony, he reported that pre-pandemic, Curacao enjoyed 463.000 visitors, in 2019. The number dropped understandably in 2020, and started picking up in 2021, with 261,000 visitors. Things are looking up this year, and the island is projecting 367,000 visitors, perhaps even 420,000. Half a million visitors, next year.

His address was effective. Sell, sell, sell, he said, we will not be successful without you.

The Minister of Economic Development, an elected politician in a shaky coalition, Ruisandro Cijntje, was also among dignitaries joining the ribbon cutting ceremony at the official GTS 2022 opening.

His address consisted of niceties, welcoming delegate and wishing them a good time. My friends in Curacao assure me he knows tourism is key, but he did not take advantage of the opportunity to win us over as ambassadors, with his eloquence or charm.

Everyone we met during the action-packed days expressed his hope that the island’s partners, newly armed with experience and knowledge, will fly back home, and promote the island, tirelessly. A lot is riding on the collaborative efforts of the island’s friends and partners, to fill rooms at the colorful and refreshed Caribbean paradise, that differs greatly from all other Caribbean destinations.

And they are working on the airlift.

Seferina-Rojas turned poetic at the end of her address, quoting a local artist, Mr. Sling: “The universe is an artist, and life is an artwork. Which makes us all a small piece of a huge composition, doing everything we can to find happiness, until we’re on the right spot at the right time.”

She was hoping we all feel that Curacao, is THE right spot, at THE right time, to spend fantastic vacations at.

She is not wrong. Curacao has come a long way. Stay tuned for more later.




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May 27, 2022
Rona Coster