Aruba Makes a Targeted Investment in its Tourism Appeal

A new film festival and a fully landscaped, 10-mile park are some of the enhancements in the works

By: By Mark Rogers

Otmar Oduber, Aruba’s minister of tourism, labor and transportation // (c) 2010

Otmar Oduber, Aruba’s minister of tourism, labor and transportation

On a recent swing through Los Angeles, TravelAge West caught up with Otmar Oduber, Aruba’s new minister of tourism, labor and transportation. Oduber brought us up-to-speed on the island’s new approach to development and gave us a preview of what to expect from the upcoming inaugural Aruba International Film Festival.

“This government wants to limit the amount of new builds and instead concentrate on the existing product and bringing it to the next level,” explained Oduber. “We’ll also be concentrating on improving the island’s infrastructure.”

A major component of this initiative is the construction of Aruba’s linear park, a project that has been in the gestation stage for six years. Upon completion, the park will stretch from the airport to the resorts located along Palm Beach, and will be a fully landscaped, 10-mile corridor along the coastline of Aruba.

An exception to this focus on infrastructure is the highly anticipated The Ritz-Carlton Aruba, which is expected to be completed by the third or fourth quarter of 2012. The 320-room oceanfront resort will be situated on Palm Beach and will have a spa, two swimming pools, a 24-hour casino, several restaurants and The Ritz-Carlton Club Level, a private floor with dedicated concierge service.

The island is also going green in a big way. Eight hotels on Aruba have achieved Green Globe Certification. The most recent of these was The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino, which became Green Globe Certified last February. The Hyatt is the first high-rise resort on Aruba’s Palm Beach to receive certification. Aruba has also successfully completed phase one in the process of having Arashi, Mangel Halto and Baby beaches become certified through Blue Flag, an international certification program that upholds quality standards in four main areas: water quality, safety, services and facilities and environmental education and management. The $6 million project is scheduled for completion next year.

“Eight years ago, the island was catering to families,” said Oduber. “We’re now seeing huge growth in the honeymoon and destination wedding market, as well the singles market.”

Oduber also noted that the island’s visitors are more adventurous than in years past and are interested in getting out and exploring the island on their own in self-drive adventures.

Aruba already has a track record of mounting very successful annual music and culinary festivals. The island is now moving into the world of film and recently announced that it will host its first ever Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF), which will take place from June 4-11. The annual AIFF will bring participants from around the world to view a wide selection of films, join in discussions, take part in workshops and panels and attend special parties and events. The festival will showcase between 20 and 30 films throughout the week from North America, South America, Europe and Asia, of which the majority will be independent films. There will also be a local component to the festival. Claudio Masenza — a writer, director and producer — is serving as AIFF artistic director and will be selecting films that reflect the cultural diversity that can be found on Aruba.

Throughout the event, notable film professionals will be conducting workshops and master classes on all facets of filmmaking and the creative process. A coup for the festival is getting a commitment from Richard Gere to conduct a master class in acting.

The AIFF hub will be located in the Paseo Herencia Shopping & Entertainment Center in the Palm Beach area of the island. Tickets will be available in a variety of price ranges, from a single movie ticket and multi-event packages to top-accreditation tickets for VIP events.

“The film festival will give us more visibility on the U.S. West Coast,” said Oduber. “On average, we annually receive between 5,000 to 6,000 visitors from the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets. The West Coast is a market we see having potential for growth for Aruba.”

Aruba International Film Festival

Aruba Tourism Authority