Quick Hits: Alhambra Casino, Tropicana Resort, Linear Park, Oasis Condo, Acqua Condo, Costa Linda, Taste of Belgium, Ritz Carlton, La Cabana

In terms of tourism development at lot went on during my 6 month absence, as you can image. This post is especially interesting for the repeat visitors to Aruba or just for the one who are curious by nature. I’m touching each project briefly just to get you up to speed. At a later time I will elaborate on the individual projects, including several pictures. Let’s get to it.

Alhambra Casino

The construction at Alhambra Casino has been ongoing for the better part of the year. Currently work is being done at the main entrance which is on the east end. On top of the main entrance a dome is being build to give the casino entrance a grand appearance.

Ritz Carlton Aruba Construction
Construction at Ritz Carlton Aruba

On the eastern part a new section is being constructed, which seems to going to function as a storage room or staff area. The parking area is completely finished, including new asphalt pavement, desert landscaping and LED parking lights.

The shopping area that use to be there was razed to make place for a new, better organized shopping area. The retail section still needs months of construction. Only food retail business to remain open during construction is Subway restaurant.

Tropicana Resort

Renovation at Tropicana Resort is ongoing, at a slow pace it seems. The old temporary banners with the resort titles made place for more permanent titles. Tropicana chose for a retro design using white letters on top circles with green background and gold trim for the second part of the resort name. The casino’s name is now Trop Casino. As of today the casino hasn’t resume business. The restaurant there is open for business. By the way I saw a couple of juicy deals on their website for the coming months. Have at it.

Linear Park

The island government has pushed for the construction of a linear park across the street from Talk of the Town Resort (this resort is located on the way to Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, just after the airport). The linear park is an open and accessible park for locals and visitors alike.

The first contours of the park are becoming visible and I must say that I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the first shapes of this park. I could see myself hanging out there with the family. The complete plan entails the largest linear park of the Caribbean connecting the park from Talk of the Town to the hotel area by the beaches.

Oasis Condo

Oasis is practically finished, with only a few more minor details that need some work. The way things are going I believe guests could be arriving weeks before year’s end. It really looks nice. I’ll have to tour the place to see the quality in the detail and finish.

Acqua Condo

Construction at Acqua Condo continues to be ongoing, but not without the well documented issues. This time the issue isn’t the construction itself, rather the fact that some buyers are complaining about getting a different unit than initially was agreed upon. Sigh… By the way, I read that on a forum.

Costa Linda

This is the first major renovation of the 90s build resort, Costa Linda. Construction is full ahead and ongoing. Nothing else to report here.

Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium Restaurant (same owners as Cilo City Lounge, Papillon Restaurant, Taste of Belgium Bistro and a catering business) is under construction at Palm Beach Plaza Mall. This ambitious group is expanding rapidly and are now competing with another fast expanding group of restaurants Aruba Wind and Dine.

I have always been a fan of Taste of Belgium and related restaurants. You should check them out. They have a great Facebook page with up to date pictures of the construction at Taste of Belgium Restaurant.

Ritz Carlton

North of Marriott Resort, construction of Ritz Carlton continues without novelties. This luxury resort is expected to be delivered somewhere in 2013.

La Cabana

Construction at La Cabana continues. Big parts of the resort has been delivered, including the front facade and lobby. I think the renovation should help La Cabana fix issues it had recently due to the previous lack of maintenance.

These are just a couple of developments I covered, many more to come in the coming time. I’ve added some links for your convenience. Have a great week.


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.

A Walk Around Divi All Inclusive

Divi All Inclusive was so nice to allow me to walk around the resort and take a few pictures. I haven’t been there for a while and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities, in general.

The pool area is clean and have a modern look and feel. The rooms are all right, but I noticed that the bathrooms are a bit dated. It’s an all inclusive resort so meal are included. There is no room service though. From what I understand some people have had issues with the restaurants and flies. Maybe Divi needs address this by installing A/C in some open air restaurants or come with some other solution. This seems to be a legitimate issue.

View at Divi All Inclusive
Divi All Inclusive pool area

I haven’t been on Divi’s piece of beach in quite a while and must say that this beach is awesome. The quality of the sand is top notch and it’s very spacious with a limited number of objects or obstruction on the beach. Beware that the water there tends to be a bit choppy, but still good enough to swim.

View at Divi All Inclusive
Divi All Inclusive bathroom

View at Divi All Inclusive
Divi All Inclusive bathroom

View at Divi All Inclusive
Room at Divi All Inclusive

View at Divi All Inclusive
View outside room

View at Divi All Inclusive
Near pool of Divi

View at Divi All Inclusive
Divi’s pool with vintage Aruba palm trees

Aruba Hilton Returns

Back in March I wrote about the sad state of defunct Bushiri Hotel All Inclusive. This pioneer resort served also as hospitality school until its shutdown in 2003. It’s been vacant ever since.

Recently local officials announced they were in talks to developers who are seriously interested in acquiring ex-Bushiri Resort. It was also announced that they were connected to Hilton Hotels.

Bushiri
Bushiri reportedly becoming Hilton

If this group finalizes the acquisition and truly transforms Bushiri into Aruba Hilton Hotel it would mean the reintroduction of Hilton in Aruba. Aruba Hilton used to operate the building which is The Westin Aruba.

I’ve searched for an announcement or confirmation from Hilton Hotels but couldn’t find one.

Future of Bushiri

Bushiri
Above picture: Bushiri Resort earlier this month

Bushiri Resort was an all-inclusive resort, owned and operated by the island government, located on the main road from Oranjestad to the beach hotel areas. The same building featured a hotel trade school that offered many students in-house, on the job training.

Due to bad management and politics this resort was closed in the early two thousands and has been sitting there ever since, deteriorating, losing most of its value. Currently it’s still wasting taxpayers money. A government managing a resort? Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.

What are the options? First, let me tell you what the property entails: a resort building of 150 rooms, two tennis courts, pool and bar. In these times a resort like that isn’t attractive for any investor to operate. It needs to be upgraded. Herein lies the problem. Most hotel developers and operators need to double or triple the amount of hotel rooms, add a casino and a couple of restaurants.

Previous government held a public bidding process and three candidates emerged as potential buyer. The prime candidate was Spanish Meliá. The purchase price was $14.5 million. For this price Meliá wanted to build a super resort with hundreds of rooms and casino to make it feasible. The government opposed this plan. Meliá pulled out.

Now the new Minister of Tourism is planning to contact the other two candidates to see if they are still interested. If this is not the case, a new sales offer will be put out. In case no one steps forward to purchase Bushiri the government will demolish the building and restore access to the beach.

If you ask me I would choose the latter. Get rid of it. Demolish this building and its place build a beach park with a commemorative plaque as a remembrance of Bushiri as an institution for education. I can tell this much: I don’t want to be in the shoes of the Minister of Tourism. Why? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Let me explain.

  • If he leaves it as is, it’s going to deteriorate further and cost taxpayers more money. Result: angry people.
  • If he sells it and let it be redeveloped into a 600 room super resort with casino, criticism of overdevelopment follows. Result: angry people.
  • If he demolishes it, people will cry foul and call it “destruction of capital”. Result: angry people.

Aruba is One Happy Island, but we also have many cranky and angry people. Nobody said politics was an easy business, but he needs to make a decision, quite frankly the sad state of Bushiri is unacceptable.

Pictures: Tour Around Divi Phoenix

New Divi Phoenix
New at Divi Phoenix: purebeach restaurant

Recently we had the opportunity to walk around the newly opened section of Divi Phoenix’ new timeshare towers. Divi Resorts did a terrific job and delivered a pretty impressive structure at Palm Beach.

Especially the new lounge/restaurant “purebeach” is impressive. The atmosphere created at purebeach is spectacular and the view there is awesome, not to mention the sunset.

The only concern we have is that the pool appears to be a bit on the small size for all the rooms which are scheduled to be delivered. Beware that the construction is still not finished and some sections are currently being taken care off. Enjoy below pictures.

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
View from Divi Phoenix over Palm Beach

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
Nice details around the construction

New Divi Phoenix
Nice new pool area

New Divi Phoenix
New parking area Divi Phoenix

Delivered: Divi Phoenix New Timeshare Tower Opens

Divi Phoenix Construction Update
Divi Phoenix Aruba

Divi Phoenix Aruba has welcomed the first guests in its newly opened timeshare tower at Palm Beach. The new timeshare development consists of four towers adjacent to already existing tower.

There is still work ongoing on the new towers, especially the most western tower. Work is also ongoing on the parking area which is also almost finished. To celebrate the opening, Divi Phoenix is giving discounts. Starting at only $125 per night you can experience the new rooms.

Divi Corporation is a local developer with an extensive portfolio of properties in Aruba and other Caribbean islands. Despite a soft economy Divi continues to execute expansions plans as scheduled. Construction of The Residences golf condos and renovations of Divi All Inclusive are two examples.