Vacation Expo – again – without St. Maarten

POSTED: 01/22/15 11:08 PM

UTRECHT – Since Friday there is finally a peak in attendance at the Vacation Expo in Utrecht, representatives of the Caribbean islands (minus St. Maarten – ed.) say. At the large Curacao Village a long row a visitors is waiting at the snack stand, John Samson reports on Caribisch Netwerk.

Reports about the chikungunya-virus in Dutch media – the killer mosquito as visitors call it – have their effect at the Vacation Expo, especially at the stands in the Curacao Village.

“Unfortunately we are getting a lot of questions about chikungunya, but we know how we have to deal with them,” says Goriaka Maal, who receives visitors in traditional Curacaolenean dress. “No matter how you look at it, this is not favorable for tourism. But when we inform the people properly about how they have to deal with it, I think that everything is going to be all right.” The advice is therefore: if you protect yourself properly, there really is no need to be concerned.

Since Friday, the number of visitors to the Jaarbeurs complex in Utrecht has picked up. There are long queues at the entrance. The stands of the Caribbean islands are close to each other and they create a real Caribbean atmosphere. At the center is a stage for live bands and dance performances, surrounded by visitors who relax at the high tables and in beach chairs.

Visitors enjoy Antillean snacks, beer from Curacao and cocktails while they watch the performances. Next to the stage is a large kiosk with delicacies. In the Curacao Village the Bon Bini Snèk offers free pika-balls.

Together with Spain, Curacao is the host country at this year’s event. Everywhere in the large exhibition halls, the logo of Curacao is visible. It is a very special edition for Curacao, says Miles Mercera of the hotel association Chata: “We are here this year with a slightly larger team to enable us to provide all information. We are actually here to celebrate the success of Curacao, because we are in the top-three of vacation destinations in the Netherlands.”

All Caribbean destinations in the kingdom – with the exception of St. Maarten – do their best to convince visitors to visit their island. There is a lot of laughter. The stands of Aruba and Bonaire are quite busy as well.

At the Aruba-stand, most visitors have already booked a ticket or they have plans to go, one of the representatives says. “They want to know for instance what kind of activities they are able to do. We tell them about the rough coast on the north-side of the island. They are able to explore that part with a Jeep safari.”

Isn’t that the same story the other islands have? Not according to the Arubans, because, they say, “Aruba is really special because of its people and its hospitality that is not comparable with that at the sister-islands.”

Of all six islands, only St. Maarten is once again absent. Across from the Curacao Village are the stands of Saba and Statia. It is quieter there. “We tell them about our world class deep sea diving, our nature and our history. But especially about peace and quiet and that is what many tourists who come to Statia want,” says Teena Lopes of the Statia Development Foundation.

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