How the “Aruba Effect” Is Creating Sustained Tourism Growth
“You leave Aruba as a different person. You’ll see. There’s a normal you, then an Aruba you.”
That was the feeling from Luis Perez, a repeat visitor to Aruba, who took part in a recent study the Aruba Tourism Authority conducted to discover the intangible reasons why visitors are drawn to the Dutch Caribbean island.
Aruba calls it the “Aruba Effect,” and it’s proving to be an irresistible siren song for an island that is in the midst of a tourism boom.
Stayover arrivals are up by 10 percent in 2023 compared to what was an already robust 2022, while tourism receipts are 21 percent higher than they were a year ago, as “One Happy Island” continues to turn a successful pandemic management policy into sustained, strong tourism growth.
Aruba this week is holding its first-ever Global Tourism Conference at the Hyatt Regency Aruba, a summit that brought together partners from the island’s three major source markets: North America, Europe and Latin America.
“The number of global stayover arrivals is poised to surpass the levels seen in 2019,” said Ronella Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority. “We maintain an optimistic outlook in respect to the projections for 2024, while being mindful of the ever evolving circumstances both locally and globally that continue to exert their influence on the travel and tourism environment.”
The success is in large part due to a unique visitor engagement with the island, which has put visitor experience — and visitor happiness — at the center of its tourism strategy.
Sanju Luidens, the ATA’s Chief Marketing Officer, spoke of the island’s reframing of the traditional tourism paradigm: that Aruba looks to change visitors from the inside out — to help visitors become a happier version of themselves, and let them take that happiness back home with them.
The island’s growth will also be buoyed by a revitalized hotel pipeline that includes three major new hotels and an expansion.
Over the next two years, Aruba will be welcoming a new 240-room Iberostar Grand, slated to debut in October 2024; a 200-room St Regis that is slated to debut at the end of next year; and, in the first hotel for the town of San Nicolas, Hyatt’s new Secrets Bay Beach.
The iconic Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort is also undertaking a significant expansion, one that will see an additional 160 rooms opening by the middle of 2025.
That follows the recent opening of the new Embassy Suites Aruba.
As for 2024, Aruba is projecting 3 percent further growth next year, along with a 6 percent jump in tourism receipts and a 1 percent increase in revenue per available room.
On the cruise side, Aruba is forecasting a 17 percent jump in passenger visits.
But it all comes back to what Croes called a unique brand of tourism “balance.”
“We prioritize the well-being of our residents,” she said. “We strive to ensure that our visitors not only enjoy the beauty of our islands, but also the warmth of our people and community. Our brand of hospitality is not just a tradition, it is a reflection of our identity — making every visitors feel not just like a guest, but as a member of our extended family.”