The Dutch Caribbean’s tourism hub is growing. Quickly.
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Plainly, tourism in Aruba is booming. The island saw a 16.2 percent increase in stayover visitor arrivals in the first half of 2015, making it the Caribbean’s fastest-growing destination in the first half of 2015, according to data from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. So what’s next for the island? To learn more, CJ caught up with Ronella Ronella Tjin Asjoe, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority.
What is the outlook for Aruba tourism and the forecast for the high season?
With each passing year, Aruba continues to see an increase in the number of stay-over visitors and visitor on-island spending. After receiving a record number of annual visitors in 2014 (1.07 million), ATA set an aggressive goal for an 11.5 percent increase in 2015, as well as a 4 percent increase in tourism receipts, and is on track to surpass those goals. The overall ADR is projected to grow by 5-10 percent in 2015, and RevPar is projected to grow by a similar rate. With increased airlift, island-wide hotel renovations and new projects in the works, coupled with ATA’s innovative digital marketing strategies, Aruba’s tourism product improves annually — resulting in improved performance results year over year.
What new initiatives are there for Aruba Tourism Authority?
Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) has launched a new interactive experience allowing visitors to share their perfect Aruba vacation before ever stepping foot on our popular Caribbean island. The Happiness Builder is a content-rich planning experience where travelers can explore nearly 100 videos featuring adventure, relaxation, romance and cultural activities in Aruba. This dynamic and fully-immersive planning process — from choosing the video clips to picking an accompanying music track and personal message — results in a customized “Shortcut to Happiness” video that is easily sharable. As Aruba continues to evolve from both a product and marketing perspective, new and innovative tools like the Happiness Builder remain crucial to Aruba’s success as one of the most popular tourist destinations.
What are the largest challenges facing Aruba as a tourist destination?
The World Tourism Council (WTTC) reports Aruba’s GDP is more reliant on travel and tourism than any other nation, relative to size, in the world. Tourism currently accounts for 88 percent of the nation’s GDP and only continues to increase. As such, Aruba must remain creative and digital-savvy to inspire consumers to visit and fully experience our island. Our target audience visits more than 20 websites before booking their vacation, so it is essential for us to maintain a presence throughout that process with a timely, persuasive message at each stage. By engaging the best strategists and leveraging targeted technologies, we can ensure our marketing dollars are spent effectively against desired consumers in-market for vacation travel.
What sort of new investments are being made in the public sector of Aruba as it relates to tourism?
As part of Aruba’s ongoing, $1 billion+ island revitalization and beautification project, the destination recently invested more than $100 million in significant hotel updates to enhance visitors’ experiences, with an additional $50 million planned for next year. The Aruba Airport Authority also fully renovated the Reina Beatrix International Airport, introducing new amenities and services true to the One happy island brand. This includes an airport wide Wi-Fi upgrade, installation of APC and ABC Kiosks, three new F&B concepts and an additional 150 seats, and an update to the airport arrival hall and VIP lounges. Airport investments between $100-150 million are planned in the upcoming years, as traffic continues to reach new heights
Are there large renovations, new projects or new hotels are on the horizon?
In addition to the island-wide resort renovations, Aruba has new hotels in the works. The city of San Nicolas continues to be a large focus for ATA and the government, as it continues to evolve as a cultural center, with new museums slated in the coming years.
Tell us a little about upcoming Aruba events and festivals. Which of these can you recommend?
Fall is one of Aruba’s most eventful times of year, with countless culinary, cultural and musical festivals. Upcoming events include the Aruba International Film Festival, Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival and highly-anticipated, first annual Restaurant Week, Sept. 28-Oct. 9. Boasting 60 participating restaurants, Aruba is increasingly revered as the “Ultimate Sand Bar Island,” with 25+ bars/restaurants conveniently located on the water. Options range from casual decks overlooking the Caribbean sea to fine dining toes-in-the-sand establishments. Aruba’s new restaurant week offers food critics, wine connoisseurs, foodies and everyone in between the opportunity to explore Aruba’s culinary heritage.