Curacao is one of the six Netherlands Antilles, also referred to as the Dutch Antilles, islands. The six islands are divided into two groups made up of three islands each. The two groups have 500 miles of sea between them. The island of Curacao is situated in the southern most region occupied by the islands. It is only fifty miles from the South American coast of Venezuela. The group of three islands of which Curacao is a part, are also known as the ABC islands due to their names – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
The island of Curacao is the largest of the Netherland Antilles with beautiful silver sanded beaches, stunning sea-cliffs and coves. Spanish explorers were the first in 1499 to land on the island and called it the “lsland of Giants” in honor of the very tall seafaring natives. In 1634 the Dutch West Indies Company recognizing Sint Annabaai Channel’s potential as a natural harbor developed the island as a major trading post. It prosperity came from trade of sugar, salt, gold and slaves. With abolition of slavery and decline of sugar and gold trades the popularity of the island began to decline in the nineteenth century. Early twentieth century discovery of oil in the region led to building of major oil refinery on the island. This created a need for workers, who now make up the mixed society of the island. The oil boom declined towards the end of the twentieth century, tourism took over as an important industry on the island. Curacao is now trying to become an autonomous state under the Netherlands Kingdom.
Tourism in Curacao is a mix of natural and urban attractions. Tourists can enjoy the historical colonial plantation homes, scuba diving, lively nightlife and little coves to relax in. The island also leads the Caribbean region in cruise tourism and a private firm is expected to begin space tourism with suborbital flights from a spaceport on Curacao. Due to the adverse effect to the coral reefs as a result of excessive tourism, Porto Marie Beach is setting up artificial coral reefs with blocks of artificial corals numbering in the hundreds and now they are home to a wide variety of tropical fish.
The economy of Curacao is highly developed and is based on several important sectors including oil refining, oil bunkering and storage, international trade, shipping services and financial services. The standard of living on the island is high, with a world ranking of 46 in terms of GDP per capita. The government is working to make the economy even more diverse by developing an ‘Open Arms’ policy that focuses heavily on information technology companies to attract more foreign investment.
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Official languages: Papiamento language, Dutch Language
Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilder
Dialing code: +599