Cruise Tourism Tripled on Bonaire between 2012 and 2019

A cruise ship in the harbor of Kralendijk. Photo: Harald Linkels

Kralendijk- The number of cruise passengers on Bonaire literally exploded in the period 2012 to the first three months of 2020. This is shown by figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

Whereas in 2102 the island received an average of 432 cruise passengers per day – taken over 365 days of the year – this averaged 1,957 cruise tourists per day in the first three months of 2020.

This means that, especially in the first months of 2020, the island received an average of an amount of cruise tourists per day that was equivalent to about 10% of the total population.

Moreover, for several reasons, the figures cannot simply be extrapolated just like that. This is because some months of the year are (much) busier than others, when it comes to the amount of cruise vessels visiting the island.  

Taken roughly however, it can be said that the island at times gets flooded with an amount of cruise ship passengers that amounts to almost one third to half of the total number of inhabitants on a single day. Especially because cruise ships are getting bigger and larger and with an increasing capacity, that number would probably have increased even further without the intervention of Covid-19.


The high season of cruise tourism used to take place mainly between the months of November and April. As of 2016, the figures show that Bonaire received more and more cruise tourists even in the ‘quiet months’ between May and October.

2020 was on its way to becoming one of the busiest cruise seasons of all time, with an average of 1,959 tourists per day arriving to the shores of Bonaire. Only in the year 2018 did the island receive even more cruise ship passengers in the first three months of the year, namely almost 197.00. In 2012, this number was still around 87,000 for the period between January and March. Also compared to a year earlier (2019), the number of cruise tourists per day increased by 9% in the first three months of the year.

Overview of the development in number of cruise passengers, both yearly and between January and March of each year. Illustration: ABC Online Media

New policy?

Partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Executive Council of the island seems to want to take a new path when it comes to Cruise Tourism. As part of this new policy it is felt that the island should only receive a maximum of 1 cruise ship per day, instead of the two ships that regularly arrived on the island until 2020. The island also plans to significantly increase the tax collect per cruise passenger, the so-called ‘head tax’. The principles of the new policy are laid down in the Tourism Recovery Plan (TRP) drawn under the responsibility of Commissioner Hennyson Thielman.

The CBS figures can be found here.

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