photo: Curaçao International Airport

WILLEMSTAD – A large portion of the economy of Curaçao depends on tourism. The effect of the almost complete collapse of the sector is gigantic. And that means that people are leaving the island because of the corona crisis.

Like Manon Nijssen, who until recently was the super of several vacation homes. After having lived on the island for twelve years, she decided to move back to the Netherlands. She lost her job after the lockdown was implemented and wants a fresh start.

video by  Nadine Roos

“Luckily I can stay with my parents and I already have some feelers out for a new job.” Will Nijssen work in the tourism industry in the Netherlands?
“I don’t believe so, it’s hard there too. But I studied Human Resources and Social Pedagogic Work, and they’re always looking for people to work in the healthcare industry. I’m hopeful about my opportunities there, more than here.”

‘I’m more hopeful about my job opportunities in the Netherlands than I am about those in Curaçao’

According to the CBS, there’s been an increasing line in the emigration numbers and a decreasing one in the immigration numbers since 2014. The corona crisis seems to have intensified this trend.
Since January of this year, 262 more individuals have left Curaçao than have arrived. During the same period last year this was 228 according to Ruthline Haddocks, head of Publieke Zaken (Kranshi). These are only the individuals who registered their departure at Kranshi.

How many people leave the island without registering this, is unknown. Haddocks: “We don’t have a way of keeping track of that and so there are no numbers.” If the trend we have been seeing regarding the migration numbers will continue on this year, Haddocks can’t say: “At this moment it doesn’t look like it.”

William Mau Asam of the travel agency which bares his name in Willemstad has sold several one way tickets to expats who contacted him, but says that he can’t speak of a trend. “I’m curious to see if we’ll sell a lot of one way tickets when our office opens in a few days”, he says, “but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a mass exodus.”

Fewer students
What will influence the number of emigrants is the lower number of students who will be departing for a foreign country, says Haddocks. “Shortly we’ll start gauging how many students will be moving to the Netherlands to study. We expect that only half of the 300 students who usually move to the Netherlands will do so this year. That will also make a difference.”

How the migration numbers will look for 2020 is hard to say according to Haddocks. The complete picture will only become clear at the end of the year.

Reopening of borders
July 1st is the target date that the government of Curaçao has set to reopen its borders without having to put tourists in quarantine. If the borders will actually open next month and how much this will benefit the tourism industry, remains to be seen.