activities and shopping miscellaneous places to stay

Best and Worst of 2010 – Opportunity for 2011

Now that we are in the new year I believe it’s time to look back – be it briefly – on what was, by electing the best and the worst of 2010. Additionally I’d like point to the biggest opportunity I see for Aruba in 2011.

In the past I’ve named 2009 a lost year and 2010 a transitional year. Indeed they were just that. In 2009 the economy shrunk and in 2010 there was a modest growth, according to preliminary reports from the Central Bank. Tourism showed stabilization and old partners returned to Aruba such as KLM and Carnival Cruises.

Old Bushiri Resort building a great opportunity for 2011

On the flip side the important construction sector remained soft, Valero is only now reopening its facilities thus still not contributing to the economy and Ritz Carlton is still in the early stages of construction.

Below a short list according with what I believe were the best and worst of 2010, followed by biggest opportunity of 2011. All related to tourism off course.

Aruba’s Best 2010

The best of 2010 was a politician. I do this with mixed attitude as I never gave props to any local politician before since Aruba’s secession in 1986. I believe the lack of intelligent debates and independent representatives is worrisome. Also, all governments since 1986 have borrowed so much money that now our national debt surpassed 50% of our GDP, which is beyond irresponsible.

However, there’s some hope on the horizon in both the ruling and opposition parties. When an effort is done by a young politician to change things and to work according to what he’s generously compensated for he deserves a compliment for sure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s his job but he stood out from the rest.

The best of the year 2010 is Mr Otmar Oduber, Aruba Minister of Tourism. His efforts to bring major partners back to Aruba didn’t go unnoticed. It seems that he’s going to achieve independence of Aruba’s Tourism office by passing the law through parliament (something that has been talked about for a long time and never achieved). Independence of the tourism office is supposed to bring a more professional and creative spending of tourism resources without interference of any politician in office.

Side note, I’m also bullish on who they hired to head this new independent entity as new Tourism Chief. She is a young local professional who used to head the tourism office on a neighboring island. Congratulations Ronella.

Other cases he tries to tackle are the airport and harbor. Also his effort to jump-start the town of St. Nicolas is commendable. Lastly, he’s trying to find a solution to the decade old problem of Bushiri Resort (more below).

Despite the good work not all has been perfect but he has the right idea. There’s still a lot that needs to be done in 2011 and beyond. Disclaimer: I didn’t vote for Mr Oduber or his party during 2009 Elections.

Aruba’s Worst 2010

Aruba’s worst for 2010 is the massive failure of Morgan’s Island Water Park. After a years of construction delays and confusion about the whole project due to secretive or tight-lipped developers the water park opened its doors late 2008.

Soon after Morgan’s inauguration it had to endure the first of a series of PR-mishaps. The first – and most important – mishap was the price point. Admission fee was set at $57 for adults. After a lot of criticism (including on this website) Morgan’s lowered the entrance fee at $37 for adults. Others complained about the food prices and unfinished attractions or lack of maintenance.

Despite efforts of its staff with Carnival offers and Facebook engagement it never stood a chance and in the first quarter of 2010 Morgan’s shut down. It was only in business for the better part of a year.

Now, the remains of the defunct and abandoned water park is an eyesore and it’s going down slowly but surely due to natural elements, lack of maintenance and vandalism. I don’t see a new operator running this place any time soon which means that razing is going to be its final inevitable destiny.

Aruba’s Opportunity 2011

2011 is starting with several great opportunities for the remainder of the year. Tourism numbers is improving to pre-2009 figures and construction is on the verge of restarting (granted building permits are on the rise), I see the biggest opportunity with Bushiri Beach Resort, located on the outskirts of Aruba’s capital Oranjestad.

This defunct, government owned, all-inclusive hotel (who invents these things!) went bust at the start of the decade and has been a abandoned ever since. The next developer will acquire Bushiri only for its location and land, not for the structure.

Last year officials started proceedings to seek a new group to develop Bushiri, however, there was still an old group that had an option apparently (which it never used). Indeed, this Spanish developer had an option but it never exercised it, as a result it expired. The sued the government four times and lost all. Apparently they are trying file another lawsuit.

This Spanish developer was asleep for a few years and now that the government wants to move ahead and seek an alternate developer, they now are trying to benefit from this. Apparently they “don’t necessarily want Bushiri”, they would accept another offer or option for beach a front property to develop at Eagle Beach or Palm Beach.

They don’t stand a chance and at the end Bushiri will be developed into something nice that will work as a catalyst for to things to come.

condos and villas miscellaneous resorts and timeshares

Look Beyond Resorts When Coming To Aruba

Aruba = beach = beach-hotel. Right? Wrong! Don’t limit yourself with hotels alone, no matter how good they are (seem). Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of situations I can think which that merits a hotel stay, however, there are equally compelling arguments otherwise.

Almost all hotels in Aruba will win the argument of being near a beach, but in modern tourism that’s not enough. My pet peeve especially is that most hotel don’t include internet (wifi) access universally. Internet is as common as telephone and television in my opinion.

Tierra del Sol Villa
Tierra del Sol condo
A few reasons for choosing a smaller/low profile venue according to me are the following:

  1. Price
  2. Privacy
  3. Amenities
  4. Personalized service
  5. Non-commercial
  6. Local environment

To view a few such properties you head to my famous list of 50+ Place To Stay In Aruba. In the bottom of the list you’ll find the smaller places.

miscellaneous resorts and timeshares

Aruba Hotel Managers Bullish

Hotel managers recently declared that they are bullish about tourist arrivals for the remainder of the year. Apparently booking is showing strong for certain sectors.

This is a welcome news as most hotels have had to cope with a drop in arrivals for some time. Having said that, September is quickly approaching and this the typical slow month.

View at Divi All Inclusive
Movements of tourists at Divi

Speaking of slow month, this is the month to look for discounted tickets and hotel fares. A quick search for Aruba Marriott for example I found whopping 40% discount for a room, with prices starting at $167. To find this offer and other visit Marriott’s deals page. Scroll down to see some offers.

miscellaneous real estate and construction

Aruba Building Stop: True or False

A question I receive frequently is about the so-called moratorium on construction of hotels and/or condos in Aruba. How is this really and should you (tourist/investor/stake holder) really care? Yes, you should care.

Long lease land vs Private property land

First of all I need to explain the two principal type of lands in Aruba, which are long lease land and private property land. Long lease is a land given out to by the government and the lease is for a time span of 60 years which renews automatically. Private property land is owned by the title holder. On both type of land tax is owed to the island government.

Generally clean – not build upon – long lease land carries additional restrictions in terms of construction, destination and transfers, in comparison to private property. When there’s construction on the land both type of lands are virtually equal, thus selling or transfer of the property are allowed without restrictions. And, yes, foreigners can purchase property in Aruba.

The government hasn’t given out any private property land in a few decades and isn’t going to give out any private land for the time being. A lot of private property land has gone from generation to generation. Not that it matters anymore, but I still question on how these private land ownerships came about in the first place.

Defunct Atlantis Hotel & Villas
New condo in Westpunt: Tuscany Residences

Is there or isn’t there a moratorium

Yes, there is. Sort of. The building stop is in place by decision of the Minister Infrastructure. This decision carries the same weight as a law, however, the rules can be bypassed by the same Minister. This is what’s been going on the last few years. The new condos you see appearing everywhere are all build on long lease land, except problematic Acqua Condo, which was the last piece of private property land in Palm Beach.

I don’t believe condo sales representatives should use this “moratorium” as an angle to sell condos. In lesser extend this is also valid for timeshare units. There are no guarantees that this building stop is going to last and whether it’s going to influence the value of your property in the long term.


As of last year October Aruba has a different government, which campaigned hard against the over-building and promised to limit new project. Instead they said they would like to focus the development to San Nicolas. In three more months or so this government will be a year in office and to my knowledge they haven’t given out any major piece of land near the hotels. All development currently ongoing was inherited by previous administration.

air and cruise travel miscellaneous

Viva México!

Local tourism officials have recently approached Mexican tourism partners to survey the possibilities of a strategic cooperation. Specifically, officials would like to measure the chances of non-stop flights between Mexico City and Aruba by a Mexican carrier.

Mexican flag carrier, Aeroméxico, recently held a survey among their travelers with the question which leisure Caribbean destination they would like to see Aeroméxico start flying to and Aruba came on top. Aruba is badly in need of a solid secondary market after current number two – Venezuela – has dropped dramatically the last few years, mostly due to internal issues in Venezuela.

Señor Frogs soon
Señor Frog’s is owned by Grupo Andersons, based in Mexico

If Aeroméxico decides to start flying to Aruba a few times a week, this route can become an interesting alternative for travelers flying from California to Aruba. This is certainly good news.

activities and shopping miscellaneous

Aruba Aloe Explained

Aruba is mostly known for its sun, sea and sand. Naturally. This is a vacation island in the Caribbean. Another thing Aruba is known for is its Aloe vera. What is Aloe vera? According to Wikipedia it’s a species of succulent plant which is widely used in medicinal and cosmetic products.

According to people with knowledge of this subject matter Aruba Aloe vera’s origins are from the North Africa. At its highs two thirds of the surface of Aruba was filled with Aloe vera plant and was one of the biggest suppliers of Aloe vera raw product in the world. This was until early 20th century when the oil refining business took off. This was a day when e-commerce, as described on, was just a pipe dream.

Aruba Aloe Balm
Only producer of Aloe Products: Aruba Aloe Balm NV

Aloe is truly nature’s miracle. In commercial production this plant is used in drinks, skin care products, beauty products, health products, food (i.e. chocolate, candy) and many others. In my opinion aloe really shines when it comes to skin care. There’s isn’t a household in Aruba that doesn’t have an aloe plant outside the door. Whenever there is an issue regarding the skin, such as a burn, locals go outside snap a piece of aloe, open it up and apply the juicy gel on top of the injury. Repeat a couple of times and you’ll start seeing results.


Aruba sun is relentless and viscous. Sometimes tourists forget this and go outside without applying sun protection which can result in nasty sun burns. Beware that it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to get a sunburn on this island. In case you happen to find yourself in this situation the first thing you should do is snap an aloe and apply it on the burn. When it dries up just reapply. Forget the fancy “after burn lotion” available downstairs in the hotel’s gift shop.


Something that’s I’ve noticed when talking to tourists, especially from the cruise ship, they think the aloe business in Aruba is big. The impact of aloe production in Aruba on the local economy is rather small. Apart of some people offering you “aloe in a pot” the only true commercialization of this product is done by Aruba Aloe Balm N.V. (N.V. is a Dutch abbreviation and stands for “Naamloze Vennootschap” which translates to Limited Liability Company, just FYI).

The whole production (from aloe to cream for example) is done at their location in Hato. Apart from a store they also offer tours at their facilities. Here you’ll learn about the history and see the complete production process. Aruba Aloe Balm is located in Hato, which is only 5 minutes away form the low rise hotels and 10 minutes from the high rise hotels.

Aloe field
Aloe Balm’s aloe field

activities and shopping miscellaneous

Defunct Morgan’s Island Rumors

Information requests about water parks in Aruba remain one the most sought after content on this website. Not everyone is aware about Morgan’s Island Water Park demise obviously. It closed last month after being in business for a little more than a year.

The only water park that remains open for tourists is the much smaller one on De Palm Island. This is a private island owned by Aruba’s biggest tour operator De Palm Tours. Apart from the water park they offer buffet lunch, lounge chairs, snorkeling and fresh water showers.

Morgan's Island Water park
Above image: Morgan’s island water park

Back to Morgans. After all suppliers and vendors removed their belongings, the water park property continues abandoned. Bankruptcy for the water park has been filed. I’ve heard an unsubstantiated rumor that the water park is being acquired this summer. Bare in mind that this is rumor and is not confirmed by any means. I’ll keep you posted.

Note: I’ve written extensively about the water park, just follow the water park tag.