Curacao and St. Maarten become autonomous countries: what it means for travelers

Get ready for two new passport stamps: the former Netherlands Antilles has dissolved, and Curaçao and St. Maarten are now autonomous countries. Smaller islands such as Bonaire will now become Dutch municipalities. Aruba, the biggest of the ABC islands, has been a similarly autonomous state since 1986. It’s not a major status change for residents, as Curaçao has been self-governing for more than 50 years, but it will mean greater independence from the Dutch monarchy and more control over their own finances and local courts.

So what does this mean for travelers? The new independent status means more tax dollars for both Caribbean islands, meaning more money for tourism infrastructure and development. Curaçao, with one of the only UNESCO World Heritage sties in the Caribbean, has already seen huge growth in visitors from North America, up 40% this year. Development so far in Curaçao has been conservative and thoughtful, with many well-kept public beaches and no mega-hotels or high-rises spoiling the scenery. Even the island’s newest resort, the 350-room Hyatt Regency Curaçao Golf Resort, Spa, and Marina, barely makes a dent in the landscape; let’s hope the island maintains its charm.

In other news for Curaçao, the island is planning to enter the space tourism game with flights to space in 2014, perhaps the new tourism revenue stream will speed up the process.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Jessica Bee]