Aruba tourism started officially in the late 50s, early 60s. Aruba started to welcome tourists when Aruba Caribbean Hotel opened its doors. This is when we started to take tourism more seriously. Customers at first were only refinery executives with their family and friends, later “regular” visitors started coming.
For the next three decades tourism remained a secondary industry, however. Until the early 90s. After coping with the struggles and hardship of losing the primary industry – oil refining – large investments in tourism and hard work started to pay off. Hotels, resorts and restaurants started to pop up everywhere, infrastructure was improved, promotional campaigns were launched, consequently tourism figures increased dramatically.
It wasn’t always perfect. Quite the contrary. It happened through trial and error. Errors that the island is still coping with this day. Island officials trusted in the wrong people in terms of investments and bank guarantees. Immigration was a free-for-all. Now we seem to have reached another pinnacle point in our island’s history.
The next chapter of tourism
Current growth in traffic numbers is not sustainable. Many agree that this island has reached its capacities in how much more people it can carry. Most agree that something needs to be done, few agree on what exactly needs to be done.
Aruba is a very political island and herein lies its weakness. There isn’t a clear consensus as to what exactly needs to happen going forward. Yes, everybody says we need to diversify the economy or stop construction but few offer concrete steps, backed by realistic figures. And if someone should come with a perfect plan, there will always be political opposition. Some government backed committees have come with advise but unfortunately have no pull, thus seems like a huge waste of time and money. And yet I still support these committees [ugh, I hate that word].
University of Aruba Tourism Studies
University of Aruba has a relatively small faculty of Tourism Studies, but are as idealistic and passionate about the theme as I am. These people actually do a terrific job in analyzing a coming with realistic proposals. You could say that they are the few ones who provide the debate with academic data and feedback. For example I loved their suggestion in the past for enhancing Cultural Tourism. Unfortunately nothing happened with that plan.
An example of the University’s great work is the recent partnership between Aruba’s Cruise Tourism Authority and the University’s Faculty of Tourism, the so called Cruise Industry Alliance. This partnership allows academics and students to survey cruise visitors about Aruba and present their findings to the cruise officials. In turn Cruise Tourism Authority offers a structurally internship opportunity to students. Awesome.
My own role in this will remain as an observer. I will continue to offer my opinion about matters regarding tourism and hopefully contribute this way to the open debate. I only wished there were more locals out there writing and debating, instead of offering one-liners [mostly political] on local news websites. Once more, I would like to invite locals to engage in the discussion by offering their opinion in an open way.
Speaking of politics I would like to remind all readers, especially locals, that all my opinions expressed here are especially non-political. I don’t want politics to taint the massage. However, I do call it the way I see it, and if by any chance I should offend your political view or flavor that’s my prerogative as an autochthonous.
My contribution about the future of Aruba tourism will be tagged “Tourism 2.0”.