Bon Bini From Curaçao!

with Caroline Booth

André Rojey & Chandra Smouse, Curacao Tourist Board

ACV's Christine Fawlner & Krista Cardona

Acoya's Henry Martjin

Emerson Cordilia, Sunscape

“First off I'd like to thank you," said André Rojer, Marketing Manager North America of the Curaçao Tourist Board during a recent agent dinner presentation. “We had a spectacular winter season from Toronto. Our planes flew over 97% full and that is thanks to you guys." Although last winter's extreme cold temperatures were a motivating factor for travellers heading down south, Canadians are indeed showing increased interest in this Dutch Caribbean island that offers its visitors a full range of experiences in addition to the typical sun sand and sea vacation. That means good business for all.

To meet visitor demand, Air Canada Vacations now offers non-stop year round weekly service from YYZ to CUR, whereas prior to that, flights were only available in the winter season. May 7 th marked the 1 st flight of the summer rotation and to support efforts on the ground the Tourist Board together with Air Canada Vacations hosted 2 information sessions in Toronto for agents to learn about why their clients should go to Curaçao.

Chandra Smouse, Industry Liaison North America with the Tourist Board is well aware that agents sell a lot more of the better known islands, and was ready to make her case. "After I finish speaking with you, I'm sure I will convince you that you really need to look seriously at this particular one." The Air Canada Vacations package options for Curaçao include 14 resorts, and present this evening for agents to meet were representatives from Acoya, Marriot, Renaissance and Sunscape (by AMResorts). And, guests who stay at Sunscape, Marriott, Hilton or Avila Hotel can take advantage of Air Canada Vacations' added value Privileges Program.

Located just north of Venezuela and on the outer fringes of the hurricane belt, Curaçao is the largest of the ABC islands that includes Aruba and Bonaire. The Arawak people were the original inhabitants before discovery by the Spanish in 1499. French and English laid claim at various times and the Netherlands took final control in the early 19th century. According to Smouse, Curaçao became a true melting pot for ethnicity when the Shell oil refinery came to the island in 1925. It was the 3 rd largest refinery in the world and in need of workers, so a global recruiting spree brought in people from everywhere. Generations later the result is a land steeped in rich diversity - 55 different nationalities to be exact!

The historic port area of Willemstad, also the country's capital, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1997 for recognition of its success at sustaining a healthy and vibrant multicultural community over the past 3 centuries. The brightly painted Dutch architecture inspired buildings that line the streets make for a uniquely European feel which is different that what one might expect from a Caribbean destination. Getting around by foot is easy and while taking in the sights visitors can enjoy cafés, art galleries and duty free shopping at the many island boutiques. For a bit of history, be sure to visit the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue which is the oldest Jewish synagogue in the western hemisphere still in use.

After time spent in the city travellers are encouraged to rent a car and explore the island. “The reason why we like Canadians so much is that they are adventurous," said Rojer. "They get out of the resort, they go hiking and jumping and snorkelling. Getting lost is part of the adventure." Jeep tours and ATV excursions are available, and how about a visit to the island's 1st winery or an ostrich farm, which by the way, is the largest ostrich farm outside of Africa.

Under water, diving enthusiasts will be kept busy by exploring the 40 different dive zones, and those who prefer not to get suited up can take a trip in the Curasub. This new attraction by Substation Curaçao is a certified mini-submarine that lets passengers get a glimpse of marine life, coral and old shipwrecks.

Thanks to year round access, visitors can now enjoy the many special events that go on throughout the year. Coming up during the last weekend of May is the 1st edition of Viva La Musica Latina Curaçao. The beginning of June is restaurant week where foodies can take advantage of a prix fixe menu at participating restaurants and enjoy dishes that are as varied in flavour as the island's culture. The North Sea Jazz Fest in September is known to attract big names such as Diana Ross, Lionel Ritche, Paul Anka, John Legend, Alicia Keys and Bruno Mars to name a few, and at the end of September is the Annual Pride week celebration. In November is the KLM Marathon, and the event that Rojer most looks forward to is Carnival that takes place in February where the island comes alive with music, colours and partying.

With so much going on there is something for every client to enjoy, and definitely an island that agents should look seriously at.

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