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Sandals Helps Cement Curacao’s Reputation as an All-Inclusive Destination

It wasn’t so long ago that all-inclusive resorts were a rarity on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao,

with Breezes Curacao pretty much dominating the pay-one-price market throughout the 2000s before SuperClubs exited the island in 2012. Now, Curacao has a half-dozen all-inclusive resorts under brands like Wyndham, Hilton, AMResorts and — perhaps most significantly, Sandals.


The proliferation of all-inclusive resorts on Curacao has not only changed the perception of the destination among travel advisors and travelers, but has also helped boost the island’s tourism numbers to record levels and increased air access to the island.


AMResorts opened the Zoëtry Curacao Resort and Spa in late 2021 and also operates the all-inclusive Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino on Piscardella Bay and the Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino on Mambo Beach. The Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao All-Inclusive is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, while the Kunuku Resort All-Inclusive was Wyndham’s first Trademark Collection property when it opened in 2021.


In June 2022, Sandals unveiled the Sandals Curaçao Royal, a 351-room resort representing a $72-million renovation of the former Santa Barbara Beach Resort. In addition to being Sandals’ first resort in Curacao, the property also features some notable other debuts, including the chain’s first two-level infinity pool and its inaugural floating restaurant.


The resort was an immediate hit with travelers, said Gary Sadler, executive vice president of global sales and industry relationships for Unique Vacations Inc., an affiliate of the worldwide representatives of Sandals Resorts International. 


“Overall, occupancies have surpassed our expectations,” said Sadler, adding that “travelers considering the Caribbean are aware of our first hotel in Curaçao, which is incredible, and our efforts to put the destination and its colorful experiences front and center — from its trendy culinary scene to the island’s natural hidden gems that are ripe for exploration.”


More Visitors, More Flights

Not coincidentally, the arrival of Sandals has corresponded with a spike in interest in Curacao as a vacation destination: for example, year-to-date arrivals from the U.S. — the biggest market for all-inclusive vacations — are up 87 percent over 2022 levels. Overall, Curacao is projecting 525,000 stayover visitors in 2023, which would well exceed the 2022 tally of 489,558 stayover visitors. 


Increased airlift is helping to facilitate visitation to Curacao: in June, Air Canada announced that it would transition its seasonal Toronto-Curacao service into a year-round offering, and American Airlines has unveiled plans for daily nonstop service from Charlotte International Airport beginning in December 2023. Delta Air Lines also has announced that it will return to Curacao after a decade-long absence, with weekly Saturday nonstops from Atlanta set to take off on Dec. 16.


JetBlue has twice expanded its service to Curacao in the past year and now has five flights each week between New York’s JFK Airport and Curacao, with service on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. 


“The correlation between the entry of our brand to a destination and increased airlift is no secret,” said Sadler. “We’ve seen this in Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados and other destinations and while we are very happy about increasing capacity to Curaçao, we know that a rising tide lifts all the boats and are excited to be part of this dynamic and diverse destination and happy for its success which we share.”


Off the Resort

Some travelers may be content to spend their all-inclusive beach vacation at their resort in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, but that’s less likely in Curacao, a destination where the vibrant capital city, Willemstad, is not just a major draw for tourism but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


“It’s a compelling destination… and we want our guests to experience everything it has to offer,” said Sadler, who said Sandals’ Island Inclusive program includes dining in local restaurants as part of the all-inclusive package. Guests who stay at Sandals Curacao for seven nights or more get a $250 credit and free round-trip transfers to eight off-site restaurants.


The resort also offers gives couples staying in top-level Kurason Island Suites and Awa Seaside Bungalows complementary access to a MINI Cooper convertible to encourage further explorations of the island.


Trash into Treasures — and Soccer Goals

The next souvenir Curacao travelers may pick up could be a piece of junk — and they’ll love it. The group Limpi Curacao collects plastic waste from Curacao’s beaches and other sites and recycles it into a variety of gift items, including keychains in the shapes of sea turtles, starfish, and cacti. Hospitality industry clients include the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort, which uses Limpi Curacao drink coasters, and the Sandals Curacao, which commissioned Limpi to build soccer goals out of
recycled plastic.


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