Curacao initiates push for US tourism dollars

New York: The Curacao Tourist Board and PR partner Hill & Knowlton have launched a media and consumer relations campaign focused on attracting North American tourists to the Caribbean island, which until now tailored outreach mostly to Dutch and South American travelers.

New York: The Curacao Tourist Board and PR partner Hill & Knowlton have launched a media and consumer relations campaign focused on attracting North American tourists to the Caribbean island, which until now tailored outreach mostly to Dutch and South American travelers.

Last month, the CTB and H&K launched an "aggressive" media and consumer relations campaign to attract North American tourists to the Netherlands Antilles-chain island, said Nina Truman, H&K senior executive, marketing and new business.

Led from the agency's New York and Miami offices, the campaign emphasizes Curacao's "sandy coves and amazing diving," said Truman. Even more, though, it highlights the island's European-influenced heritage and culture.

Efforts, via traditional and online media, include outreach to several key audiences, he added. But the primary target is "the experienced Caribbean traveler ... [who] wants an experience that isn't just beach: the Caribbean with a twist."

North American tourists' search for an "undiscovered" island experience marks a travel trend on which other Caribbean destinations are also looking to capitalize.

In the past few years, more off-the-beaten-path Caribbean getaways like St. Eustatius, Bonaire, and Grenada have launched efforts to boost recognition in the US. Luring "been there, done that" US travelers with the promise of pristine beaches or culinary- and eco-tours, some have already seen visitation boosts.

The US hasn't been a priority for Curacao, said CTB director of marketing Brenda Benjamin, in part because the island "didn't have a product that appealed to the US market."

Though Curacao is a short jaunt from the East Coast - essentially the same as Aruba - it lacked convenient US air service and accommodations catering to US tastes.

Now, however, several US airlines offer frequent flights, and six American-friendly resorts are under construction.

To fill its close to 1,000 new hotel rooms, the CTB is aiming for 114,000 North American arrivals annually by 2009 - more than double Curacao's current 50,000.

Goals are "set quite high for the US," Benjamin noted. "[It] has everything that makes it a prime market, not only for Curacao, [but] for the entire Caribbean."

H&K won the CTB account in September. PR was previously led by Coral Gables, FL-based Cheryl Andrews Marketing.

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