Aruba Building Stop: True or False

A question I receive frequently is about the so-called moratorium on construction of hotels and/or condos in Aruba. How is this really and should you (tourist/investor/stake holder) really care? Yes, you should care.

Long lease land vs Private property land

First of all I need to explain the two principal type of lands in Aruba, which are long lease land and private property land. Long lease is a land given out to by the government and the lease is for a time span of 60 years which renews automatically. Private property land is owned by the title holder. On both type of land tax is owed to the island government.

Generally clean – not build upon – long lease land carries additional restrictions in terms of construction, destination and transfers, in comparison to private property. When there’s construction on the land both type of lands are virtually equal, thus selling or transfer of the property are allowed without restrictions. And, yes, foreigners can purchase property in Aruba.

The government hasn’t given out any private property land in a few decades and isn’t going to give out any private land for the time being. A lot of private property land has gone from generation to generation. Not that it matters anymore, but I still question on how these private land ownerships came about in the first place.

Defunct Atlantis Hotel & Villas
New condo in Westpunt: Tuscany Residences

Is there or isn’t there a moratorium

Yes, there is. Sort of. The building stop is in place by decision of the Minister Infrastructure. This decision carries the same weight as a law, however, the rules can be bypassed by the same Minister. This is what’s been going on the last few years. The new condos you see appearing everywhere are all build on long lease land, except problematic Acqua Condo, which was the last piece of private property land in Palm Beach.

I don’t believe condo sales representatives should use this “moratorium” as an angle to sell condos. In lesser extend this is also valid for timeshare units. There are no guarantees that this building stop is going to last and whether it’s going to influence the value of your property in the long term.

Future

As of last year October Aruba has a different government, which campaigned hard against the over-building and promised to limit new project. Instead they said they would like to focus the development to San Nicolas. In three more months or so this government will be a year in office and to my knowledge they haven’t given out any major piece of land near the hotels. All development currently ongoing was inherited by previous administration.

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Viva México!

Local tourism officials have recently approached Mexican tourism partners to survey the possibilities of a strategic cooperation. Specifically, officials would like to measure the chances of non-stop flights between Mexico City and Aruba by a Mexican carrier.

Mexican flag carrier, Aeroméxico, recently held a survey among their travelers with the question which leisure Caribbean destination they would like to see Aeroméxico start flying to and Aruba came on top. Aruba is badly in need of a solid secondary market after current number two – Venezuela – has dropped dramatically the last few years, mostly due to internal issues in Venezuela.

Señor Frogs soon
Señor Frog’s is owned by Grupo Andersons, based in Mexico

If Aeroméxico decides to start flying to Aruba a few times a week, this route can become an interesting alternative for travelers flying from California to Aruba. This is certainly good news.

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Aruba Aloe Explained

Aruba is mostly known for its sun, sea and sand. Naturally. This is a vacation island in the Caribbean. Another thing Aruba is known for is its Aloe vera. What is Aloe vera? According to Wikipedia it’s a species of succulent plant which is widely used in medicinal and cosmetic products.

According to people with knowledge of this subject matter Aruba Aloe vera’s origins are from the North Africa. At its highs two thirds of the surface of Aruba was filled with Aloe vera plant and was one of the biggest suppliers of Aloe vera raw product in the world. This was until early 20th century when the oil refining business took off.

Aruba Aloe Balm
Only producer of Aloe Products: Aruba Aloe Balm NV

Aloe is truly nature’s miracle. In commercial production this plant is used in drinks, skin care products, beauty products, health products, food (i.e. chocolate, candy) and many others. In my opinion aloe really shines when it comes to skin care. There’s isn’t a household in Aruba that doesn’t have an aloe plant outside the door. Whenever there is an issue regarding the skin, such as a burn, locals go outside snap a piece of aloe, open it up and apply the juicy gel on top of the injury. Repeat a couple of times and you’ll start seeing results.

Tip

Aruba sun is relentless and viscous. Sometimes tourists forget this and go outside without applying sun protection which can result in nasty sun burns. Beware that it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to get a sunburn on this island. In case you happen to find yourself in this situation the first thing you should do is snap an aloe and apply it on the burn. When it dries up just reapply. Forget the fancy “after burn lotion” available downstairs in the hotel’s gift shop.

Impact

Something that’s I’ve noticed when talking to tourists, especially from the cruise ship, they think the aloe business in Aruba is big. The impact of aloe production in Aruba on the local economy is rather small. Apart of some people offering you “aloe in a pot” the only true commercialization of this product is done by Aruba Aloe Balm N.V. (N.V. is a Dutch abbreviation and stands for “Naamloze Vennootschap” which translates to Limited Liability Company, just FYI).

The whole production (from aloe to cream for example) is done at their location in Hato. Apart from a store they also offer tours at their facilities. Here you’ll learn about the history and see the complete production process. Aruba Aloe Balm is located in Hato, which is only 5 minutes away form the low rise hotels and 10 minutes from the high rise hotels.

Aloe field
Aloe Balm’s aloe field

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Defunct Morgan’s Island Rumors

Information requests about water parks in Aruba remain one the most sought after content on this website. Not everyone is aware about Morgan’s Island Water Park demise obviously. It closed last month after being in business for a little more than a year.

The only water park that remains open for tourists is the much smaller one on De Palm Island. This is a private island owned by Aruba’s biggest tour operator De Palm Tours. Apart from the water park they offer buffet lunch, lounge chairs, snorkeling and fresh water showers.

Morgan's Island Water park
Above image: Morgan’s island water park

Back to Morgans. After all suppliers and vendors removed their belongings, the water park property continues abandoned. Bankruptcy for the water park has been filed. I’ve heard an unsubstantiated rumor that the water park is being acquired this summer. Bare in mind that this is rumor and is not confirmed by any means. I’ll keep you posted.

Note: I’ve written extensively about the water park, just follow the water park tag.

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Happy Queen’s Day Aruba

Today the citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are celebrating Queen’s Day 2010. In each of the Kingdom’s territories this day is celebrated with cultural activities.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the US Secretary of State Clinton released a message on behalf of the President and the American people towards people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Image: RVD – Shield Dutch Royal Family

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I wish the people of the Netherlands a Happy Queen’s Day. This is an opportunity to celebrate culture and history throughout the Netherlands, Aruba, and the Dutch Antilles. Streets from Rotterdam to Oranjestad and Willemstad will be filled with people dressed in orange enjoying the vrijmarkt, or freemarkets. We join our Dutch friends in honoring Queen Juliana and Queen Beatrix, and celebrating our strong partnership.

The shared history of our two nations stretches back to the Dutch explorers and pioneers, such as Henry Hudson, who made their way to the New World and helped establish what would become the United States. Distinguished Dutch Americans – from Walt Whitman to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt – have made invaluable contributions to the cultural, economic, and political landscape of the United States, as have the more than four million people of Dutch descent in the United States today.

This year, we commemorate all we accomplished together 65 years ago, defeating fascism in Europe to end World War II, and honor those who lost their lives in defense of freedom. Today the Netherlands is one of our most valued partners and trusted friends, and we look forward to a shared future marked by economic prosperity, mutual understanding, and the pursuit of our common goals.

I wish all the people of the Netherlands, Aruba, and the Dutch Antilles, and people of Dutch descent everywhere, a safe and enjoyable Queen’s Day. We honor your history, value your friendship, and look forward to strengthening our partnership.

Source: US State Department

Happy Queen’s Day.

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Aruban Donkey’s Cool

Aruban Donkeys are cool. Donkeys end up in Aruba because of the Spanish settlers. Donkeys were the preferred method of transportation and the Spanish used them extensively.

Even after the departure of the Spanish, donkeys remained important for locals in transport and trade. This was until locals could afford buying imported cars. Soon afterwards donkeys were freed.

Cool Aruba Donkey
Taken at the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary

Further development in Aruba made the donkeys struggle. Even in the present there are reports of cars hitting donkeys. Donkeys have found a home. A full volunteer non-profit project takes care of these beautiful and smart animals: Aruba Donkey Sanctuary. They are open every day in the morning and in the weekend a bit longer. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated.

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

Coastline with windmills

Wind turbines

One thing that people notice when visiting Aruba is the constant trade winds this island enjoys. It truly is an enjoyment, otherwise it would be unbearably hot. Trade winds have an average of 20 miles per hour (32 kilometer per hour).

When tourists learn that Aruba’s energy is generated using oil products (diesel) the typical question is: why aren’t you guys using renewable energy? It’s a long story that I won’t address it here (sorry) but I’m happy to report that for the last few months (since December 2009) 10 wind turbines have been generating power, an average of 20% of Aruba’s energy needs.

If you decide to explore the northern coast, near the National Park or going to Baby Beach in St. Nicolas you will see them in action. Those things are huge, the biggest in the Caribbean. It’s a start.

PS. To see a larger picture with a slightly better view of the windmills view the original picture on Flickr.

Coastline near Natural Pool

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.