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.