Bonaire traffic jumped some 40,000 passengers this season, to 400,000, and a similar leap is expected in 2017-2018.
“It’s very positive,” said Maurice Adriaens, director of tourism. “We are at a crossroads of development, not only for infrastructure but as an island.”
Immediate plans call for upgraded bollards and the lengthening of one of the island’s two piers, with the $10 million investment set to begin later this year.
“We have to start looking at how we further the development of the island. We are focusing on the summer season, we have space then,” Adriaens told Cruise Industry News. This summer, Bonaire expects three callers, including Pullmantur which is re-introducing its summer program after a pullout in 2016.
“We are willing to invest in them coming and staying but it needs to be serious business,” Adriaens added.
Working closely with his neighbors, it is more about berth space than anything else. That is, Bonaire, Aruba and Curacao collaborating on who has space and when, to ensure that no ships heading south are turned away.
“We can show the lines the space availability across three islands at once,” Adriaens said. “We want to make sure we don’t lose opportunities.”
Passenger increases are coming in the form of bigger ships, and as the industry grows larger, the island of 18,000 has to be mindful of multiple-ship days.
“We see the development of bigger ships and that makes it more difficult for smaller islands to handle them,” Adriaens said. “It puts pressure on the infrastructure.”
Thus, expect Bonaire to try to pair multiple ship days in the future – capping passengers with a large ship and a small vessel.
“If it’s too busy you lose the experience and people start to complain. It’s very important to offer a good experience while looking to the future and keeping that up.”
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