Is Aruba’s Marketing Successful Enough To Keep The Tourism Flow High?

No it’s not enough. There you go a very straight forward answer for the burning question. Let me elaborate.

This post’s title was Googled a few days ago by someone and landed right here at I thought it’ll make a good title, for that, I thank the person that submitted it. I’m not sure that he or she found a complete answer to the question though.

I will take it upon myself to try to seek an answer for the matter. By the way, I think that the person that submitted this question probably is a student doing a paper on the topic. Perhaps this post might help in the quest on finding an answer.


The amount of money invested in Aruba’s marketing is not available to me at this point. It would have made analyzing less difficult by just simply putting the amount of marketing dollars spent against the flow of tourism.

There are other ways to get a hold on relevant figures from where one can draw some interesting conclusions. The Central Bank of Aruba releases publications periodically in accordance to international rules regarding transparency. The bank collects all necessary information from all relevant sources, like the Aruba’s tourism authority and the bureau of statistics. I’m using the Central Bank’s 2006 Annual Report as a source.


Aruba’s tourism grew (amount of visitors) from over 250,000 in 1996 to almost 1.3 million in 2006 (Image 1), a growth of 405%. The economic growth however shows a different pattern (Image 2), a cyclical pattern. The last few years there seems to a steadier pattern.

The growth in tourism was fueled by a fierce increase of investments, foreign and domestic. Not only was invested in room availability, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in infrastructure, such as a new airport, new roads and better telecommunication. Despite the fact that Aruba lacks an impeccable natural [Caribbean] beauty, investors were confident in the potential brought forth by amazing beaches, dry weather, low threat of hurricanes, safety, political stability and a service oriented native population.

Image 1 | Tourism growth 1986 – 2006 [Amount Visitors] Click in image for better view

Aruba Tourism Flow 1986 - 2006

Source: Central Bank of Aruba

Table 2 | Economic growth 1996 – 2006 [In Percentage] Click on image for better view

Aruba Economic Growth 1986 - 2006

Source: Central Bank of Aruba


Aruba has spent millions of dollars in marketing in the last 20 years, not only in North America but also in Europe. Aruba isn’t the biggest marketing-spender in the Caribbean. That honor is for the bigger islands such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas etc.

Tourism has changed a lot during the last decade. It has changed beyond the force of marketing-dollars spent by any individual island. The rise of no-frills air carriers and internet makes the decision making process rise above the marketing. Nowadays you can undermine any marketing campaign by surfing to a review-site and find out experiences by fellow travelers or just visit sites like this one that offer opinions.

Take Marriott Aruba as an example. Currently Marriott is undergoing a major reconstruction and it releases progress reports as they see fit. I, on the other hand, drive around there, take a couple of shots, post it on this website and you’ve got yourself the latest right there, thus undermining a multi-billion dollar company. In all fairness (as stated before), Marriott Aruba is very forthcoming with the construction and I merely mention Marriott as an example to prove a point.


In Aruba there are a lot of very talented experts in the field of tourism. Many spokespersons have indicated the need to come with a comprehensive plan to move ahead. “Competition isn’t standing still, we shouldn’t either,” is the common credo.

The broad term of sustainable tourism seems to resonate in a chorus among all actors in the sector, except the decision makers: politicians.

The foremost intellectual authority regarding to tourism in Aruba (in my opinion) is the Dean of Hospitality & Tourism Management Studies at the University of Aruba. He is a local guy from St. Nicolaas that has travelled the world and studied at prestigious universities and holds a doctorate. I read many of his publications and he is a guy that I can relate myself with.

I’ll close this post with an excerpt the Dean wrote for the Central Bank’s 2006 Annual Report:

“It is a truism that tourism is experiencing a paradigmatic transformation. As Aruba ventures into the new reality of the 21st century, it faces strategic challenges that will require nothing less than a tectonic shift in rethinking and redesigning its socioeconomic foundations and philosophies. While traditional strategies and policies may have worked in the past, and growth was almost a given, today we dance to a different beat, and it’s no English Waltz.”

By Gabriel

Informing travelers about Aruba since 2007, and trying to provide value to Aruba visitors.

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