Route expected to boost Canadian visitations
Bonaire is expecting to make more inroads in the Canadian market, thanks in part to a helping hand from WestJet.
The carrier has just begun weekly Toronto-Bonaire service that will run through mid-April, easily enabling people in the Ontario capital to get to an island found close to the Venezuelan coast.
It’s the only direct service between this country and Bonaire.
“We are very happy with the new flight every Tuesday from Toronto to Bonaire, and Wednesdays coming back to Toronto,” Maarten van der Scheer, CEO of the island’s airport said during a Toronto gathering on the eve of the launch of the route. “It’s essential for us to be connected directly to Toronto as it’s a big market for us. A lot of Canadians come for many years to Bonaire, sometimes for 30 years in a row, and now for the first time we have direct flights.”
Tourism officials hope they can convince WestJet to make the route a year-round one.
Tourism officials are promoting Bonaire as a non-mainstream Caribbean destination, in part because of its Dutch ties.
The dryish island is home to some 24,000 people, and tourism officials note that the largest hotel is only 200 rooms, with Veroesjka de Windt, CEO of the Bonaire Hotel & Tourism Association, saying visitors will find “really cute” boutique hotels.
Structures are limited in height to three stories, with a tourism official saying that buildings can’t be so tall as to impede island flamingos, which tend to fly at lower elevations.
The destination is home to “almost as many flamingos as people,” said de Windt, with Bonaire’s airport named Flamingo International Airport and its main structure painted pink.
The Toronto event had pink Christmas trees that had inflatable flamingos as bases.
Tourism officials also note that 80% of the island has been declared protected, as has the water encircling Bonaire.
The island also has donkey sanctuaries.
“Our nature is in our DNA,” Miles Mercera, head of Tourism Corporation Bonaire, told those on hand in Toronto.
Tourism officials are also touting Bonaire as a great diving locale, with some 85 dive sites, 350 species of tropical fish and around 57 types of coral found off its shores.
Divers can wade into the ocean at numerous spots, rather than having to use dive boats.
But de Windt also said water sports enthusiasts who appreciate ocean surface activities will be in their element in Bonaire, with great windsurfing and kitesurfing available off the shores of an island that produced an Olympic windsurfing gold medalist.
Golfers can play on a course on which “goats and donkeys have the right of way on fairways.”
The island’s somewhat quaint side is underscored by it’s only having one “traffic light,” with that feature belonging to a pizza place and if it’s green light is activated it means pizza is available and while red means there isn’t any pizza at that particular time.
Mercera said Canadians represented five per cent of all arrivals, with its main source market being Dutch and American travellers.
“It’s about 5% of our total, which is 170,000 visitors a year,” he added. “We want the marketshare to grow with the new flights.”
van der Scheer noted that the load factor for the first flight was “fully booked.”