Our Caribbean Islands Are Hurting, But Recovering

St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Dominica, Turks & Caicos Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico are only a few of the islands that were hit directly or indirectly by hurricanes this summer.

Other than expressing my thoughts to our fellow islanders and writing this piece, I feel there isn’t much I can do here from Aruba. It is extremely disheartening to see the aftermath of storms and the damage it has caused, from the casualties to the livelihood of people. Continue reading Our Caribbean Islands Are Hurting, But Recovering

Reboot – Part 2

Aruba Beaches blog is celebrating 10 years of existence which is why a relaunch celebration. Following, I will outline what will be coming to this website in the coming weeks and months.

Reflection

This website will transition from opinion, newsy, real estate, weather related content to a more featured content, showcasing the best or quirkiest Aruba has to offer to most travelers. I will continue to feature “popular” content, but won’t shy away from featuring interesting, not so typical content that I feel deserves some attention. For instance, did you know that Aruba has a vineyard? I’m working on that piece.

Aruba grapes
Locally grown grapes for Aruba wines

The time between Reboot – Part 1 and this post, I spent, for the most part, going through 10 years worth of data about what content readers accessed most and what was accessed least on this website. Additionally, I went through old comments and emails to help me get an overview.

Continue reading Reboot – Part 2

Reboot – Part 1

Back in 2007 I began writing about Aruba tourism and local weather on this website and did so until 2011. It has been silent ever since…..sigh. Ten years is a long time for a website to exist, that’s for sure. Ever wonder what happened ten years ago? I did. If you are curious, check out the year 2007 according to On This Day.

The reason for keeping this website up all these years is simply because some readers appreciated the content according to their feedback.

In all fairness, I made sure to respond to most comments and emails, additionally, I made sure to update several posts in order to reflect current information.

Now I have decided to make a comeback and reboot the website. Allow me to explain.

Continue reading Reboot – Part 1

Off topic: Aruba Gasoline Price Surge

Note: This post is not linked directly to tourism.

In Aruba gasoline prices changes once a month and tomorrow it’s increasing. This is the forth consecutive month with an increase and there’s no end in sight. Compared to last month the price increased with almost 5%. With $4.48 per gallon ($1.18 per liter) this is the highest levels the prices of gas has been in over two years. In October 2008 gasoline was at an all-time high with $5.55 per gallon.

The most upsetting part is how the prices are established. All stakeholders come together once a month (minus consumer groups) and they set the price. It’s done in a way that no one (beside the little group that comes together) really has slightest idea of how it’s established. I see no signs of this changing either. Do you smell the inflation? For more information visit ArubaGasoline.com.

Aruba Gas
Gasoline this month: $4.48 per gallon

Do you wonder how it is elsewhere? Below there’s a quick list with some prices to compare, for your reading pleasure.

Prices are in US dollar per gallon (US dollar per liter in bracket):

  1. Netherlands $8.14 ($2.15)
  2. Aruba $4.48 ($1.18)
  3. Canada [daily average] $4.28 ($1.13)
  4. Jamaica $3.90 ($1.03)
  5. USA [daily average] $3.07 ($0.81)
  6. Trinidad & Tobago $2.27 ($0.60)
  7. Venezuela $0.09 ($0.34)

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.

Bushiri
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.

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.

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.