Willemstad – Those who depart from or arrive at Hato Airport in Curaçao these days may have had a hard time: the airport is developing rapidly and the large-scale renovation and expansion, which took more than 2 years, are coming to an end.
Sounds from travelers and service providers at the airport are positive. That was quite different in the past. When the new terminal was initially delivered by the developers, united in Curaçao Airport Partners (CAP), there was a lot of criticism. For example, it was said by many that the airport could not compete with the airports on Aruba and Sint Maarten, and there was criticism not only of the size of the airport, but also of the quality and detail of the construction. For example, the floors of the airport terminal were not tiled; something that many did not like.
The construction of the new terminal and the preceding privatization stemmed from the desire of the government of the time to put the management of the airport at more distance from politics. To this end, Curaçao Airport Holding (CAH) was established, which outsourced the operation of the airport to Curaçao Airport Partners (CAP).
CAP is a consortium of private international investors Aport (ZurichAirport), Janssen De Jong (Netherlands) and CCR (Brazil). The CAP concession for the development and operation of the airport will continue until 2033.
Investment of 35 million dollars
The investment of 35 million dollars for the expansion and renovation, which started in 2016, should ensure that the airport is better prepared for the future. As part of the project, the departure hall was closed off and air conditioned, both the arrival and departure halls were doubled in size, the baggage handling system became twice as big and the amount of catering outlets was drastically expanded. The terminal now also has more ‘gates’ and galley ways than before
The idea is that time spend by passengers in the airport is more pleasant and that the ever-increasing flow of passengers will be handled in a more efficient manner.
Although the implosion of the Insel Air operating mainly from Curaçao International Airport was a disappointment that took place almost simultaneously with the kick-off for the renovation and expansion, the growth in the number of stay-over tourists seems to justify the expansion and improvement.
According to data from the Curaçao Tourist Board, the number of stay-over tourists on the island is growing fast. For example, up to and including October of this year, 26% more tourists came from Latin America to the island, 11% more from the North America and 5% more from Europe. Although the growth from Europe seems limited, it must be remembered that the number of visitors from the Netherlands has been at record high for some time.
“It has become big and beautiful here,” says a passenger who has just arrived from Bonaire and who is walking through the new corridor – with a view of the entire departure hall – to the immigration, while admiringly looking around.
Rene Winkel, director of the starting EZ-Air, is positive about the improvements made at the airport. “There has been a lot of criticism about the facilities for years, but the current management is doing a good job. That should also be said “, according to the airline entrepreneur.
Barista Karl of the “Marshe” food court, which opened this week, is also satisfied. “It is all much nicer and more luxurious than before. The air conditioning in this part of the building is not functioning so well as of yet, but CAP is still working on it “, he says apologetically, while smiling friendly.
Passengers also pay for improvements
Incidentally, all progress, even for the traveler, has a price tag. While the airport tax will become a few dollars more expensive for international destinations, travelers to Aruba, Bonaire and Sint Maarten in particular will have to dig deeper into their pockets than before. The tax to these destinatios will become 50% more expensive. The doubling of the transit tax, from 10 to 15 dollars, can be described as significant. On the other hand, the traveler can now count on better facilities, better traffic flow and more space when traveling through the now modern looking airport.
More than 15 years after the privatization of the airport, in 2018 the island seems to have the airport that had wanted it for so long. The initial criticism of privatization, the outsourcing of the management and the building that CAP put up, has now been silenced.