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State of the Islands

Palm Beach After Hurricane Felix
Palm Beach: people are still traveling

Last week I came across an interesting article titled “Caribbean Crunch“,  regarding events currently on going in tourism in many Caribbean islands, especially related towards the economic situation in North America. Many islands depend heavily on US travelers, including Aruba.

The article sums up how islands are coping with the expected drop in visitor numbers. Some island are actively working to attract airline capacity, while resorts are slashing prices to unprecedented levels. There is a full range price war currently going on in the Caribbean. Last week I was very surprised to learn that Divi All Inclusive Aruba is offering 50% off (!) its regular fare for February.

Speaking of airline capacity, a major restructuring has been going through the Caribbean since last summer. Especially American Airlines has cut many flights from Puerto Rico, including the daily flight San Juan – Aruba. This year we’re seeing European airlines doing the same thing.

The writer wraps up the article by stating that developments continue “despite the economic situation”. She sounds almost surprised. The economic situation is different everywhere. The foundations are different in Europe and Canada, just like in the Caribbean. I believe that now, more than ever, investments must continue. Build a foundation where the islands can benefit later from, primarily when economies start growing again and people start spending again.

I’ve personally received many questions from people wondering how this island is coping with the slowing economic pace, as many know that Aruba’s biggest trading partner is the US. Believe it or not, live continues to go on normally. This month is Carnival season in Aruba, which is an old tradition, and is continuing as scheduled. Investments by the government is continuing and that help money flowing through the local economy. It’s election year, spending – or investing – is also a tradition here. The flow of tourism changes from week to week. For instance, last weekend alone almost 10.000 people arrived to Aruba, airplanes were full.

Regarding local aviation news, KLM just announced the cancellation of Amsterdam – Aruba route last week, and probably KLM’s daughter Martinair might increase its frequency from 3 weekly flights to more. Aruba airport has major investments planned and are expected to continue as scheduled. In terms of cruise tourism, 2008 was a good  year for Aruba, as the amount of passengers increased.

According to local experts, Aruba tourism is expected to drop somewhere between 5 to 10 percent. Tourism officials insist that the trend has changed, as people used to book their trip months, sometimes a year, in advance. Now people mostly decide last minute. It makes working with figures much harder.

I’m a positive person by nature and will remain so despite of all the negativism that’s out there. The latest unemployment rate in the US is at 7.6%. Doesn’t that mean that the employment rate is at 92.4%? By no means I want to suggest that troubles are small. In the contrary, I understand the severity of economic contractions. I also understand that economies are cyclical, as is this one. It will start growing again. When? I wish I knew.

By Gabriel

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

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