Willemstad, February 9, 2021- Lately, the hotel occupancy has been relatively low and tourism in general has been quiet in Curaçao. It has also been difficult amongst the workforce, as COVID-19 brought thousands of job losses, resulting in families struggling to put food on the table. In recent months, a lot of attention has been placed on the pre-elections and the elections on March 19, 2021, before which, the focus was on the blackouts, the NOW-scheme and other perils.
Now it seems as if the general attention has been diverted from the total disappearance of tourism since the Netherlands announced its lockdown and with it, the collapse of the most important pillar of our economy.
All hotels and accommodations are suffering enormously, occupancy is moving between 0 and 20%, the financial buffers are almost finished after 11 months, and most hotels and accommodations have it very difficult. The financial support that these companies receive from the government does not even cover 30% of the total costs of the hotels. There is no prospect of work for employees at least until we are well into the second half of 2021. Until then, the government will receive considerably less tax and will be completely dependent on financing from the Kingdom. With this, it is not meant that it is only about hotels, but also about all the companies that benefit from the sector, i.e. restaurants, beach clubs, taxis, car rental companies, diving schools, companies that organize tours, laundries and all their suppliers, to eventually also banks and even insurance companies.
Let’s keep our eyes open and focus on what we can do to get tourism in Curaçao back on track. Our Government and Dr. Gerstenbluth have done an excellent job of getting our COVID numbers down and keeping them there, we will start vaccinating in a few days and the population is expected to be largely vaccinated June 1, 2021. However, if we want to have an economy by then, we will have to take action NOW, because without an economy the Government cannot maintain its essential tasks such as education, care, safety, etc.
As we know from July last year, it takes 5 to 6 months after the opening of the borders, before the occupation is somewhat up to standard (that is, if we open now only September 2021). That is why we, as CHATA, together with all stakeholders, propose to plead with the Dutch government to put Curaçao back to code yellow from March 1, 2021. This is so people can travel again, safely and insured, with a package holiday to Curaçao. We would like to see safe and controlled “air corridors” between Curaçao and Amsterdam, Miami and New York. This means that people are tested before they board the plane to Curaçao, but also before they go back to their country of origin on the plane. With the current state of the art technology and the rapid tests, this can be set up very safely and quickly. That, combined with the fact that the percentage of vaccinated people will be very significant by that time will give Curaçao the chance to regain its economy. Additionally, around 20% of the population has had COVID-19, which makes their chances of contracting the virus again minimal. Employment and public finances will also make their comeback because of this reason.
So, on behalf of CHATA, all employees in tourism and related companies, we request the government to do everything in its power to make these “air corridors” possible and to lobby for them abroad, especially with Prime Minister Rutte and the Dutch government.
Hans Slier on behalf of CHATA and all employees in tourism and related companies.