While other destinations are struggling with the effects of a down
U.S. economy and an unstable global political climate, business is
booming on Aruba.
The tiny Caribbean island lured 10,000 more Americans in the
first half of this year than last, and saw a 14.2 percent bump in
tourism in June and July alone, the Aruba Tourism Authority
reported earlier this year.
The fall travel numbers had not been released at press time, but
expectations are high, according to tourism representatives.
Clients will be able to get from the West Coast to Aruba in a
day’s travel soon, particularly as American Airlines is scheduled
to begin its first nonstop service from Los Angeles to San Juan,
Puerto Rico, in December.
Aruba is a one-hour hop from San Juan on American/American
The island will welcome representatives to its annual Certified
Expert Convention Oct. 30 through Nov. 3.
The convention is expected to bring together more than 1,900
Aruba travel specialists from around the world.
This year’s event marks the first time that international
delegates will participate, including experts from Europe and South
The Aruba Tourism Authority and the Aruba Hotel & Tourism
Association co-sponsor the certified expert program.
Candidates can choose a home-study course in print or online or
attend a four-hour seminar.
Participants gain access to exclusive fam trips, a rewards
program, cash-back bonuses and other booking incentives.
As the U.S. summer travel season wound down, Aruba extended the
season by promoting its second annual Music Festival, featuring
Crosby, Stills & Nash on Oct. 10 and Chicago on Oct. 11.
Both shows were sellouts, producing a dramatic increase in
visitors as nearly all of the island’s hotel rooms were booked for
the weekend. In all, the music festival is being described as a
“It was only the second time we’ve done this,” said Cristina
Rivas, a spokeswoman for the Aruba Tourism Authority.
“But we really worked out any kinks from last year and the
festival went very smooth,” she said.
The effect of the music festival on the island’s tourism
industry was being felt long before the acts took the stage.
“In the first three weeks we advertised, we had over 900 phone
calls,’’ said Mark Benson, Caribbean marketing director for GoGo
Vacations, one of Aruba’s biggest suppliers.
“I take my hat off to the Aruba Tourism Authority and the way
they are always looking for new hooks to hang the island on,’’
GoGo Worldwide Vacations offered packages that included tickets
to the shows. Preparations already have begun for the 50th
anniversary celebrations of Carnival, scheduled for February
Despite all the recent and coming events in Aruba, most visitors
to the island are simply looking for the typical Caribbean resort
experience something involving a tropical cocktail and a lounge
One of the draws of the island, however, is that there’s a lot
more to Aruba than just white sand and blue waters.
The island’s capital of Oranjestad is a wonder in itself: think
Amsterdam in bright pastels. Along with its heritage as a Dutch
conquest, the local culture is sprinkled with linguistic and
culinary influences from Europe, Africa and South America.
Most natives of Aruba speak Dutch, English, Spanish and the
native Creole dialect Papiamento, the source of the ubiquitous
“bonbini,’’ or welcome.
There’s no shortage of dining options in Aruba, and there are
several Dutch-inspired microbreweries on the island as well. The
island’s award-winning Balashi beer is served on neighboring
Curacao and Bonaire too.
In fact, one of the more unusual tours is run by the Aruba
Member restaurants, whose offerings range from Cuban to
Brazilian to Caribbean sushi, can be sampled on commissionable
dine-around programs, starting at $109 per person for three
separate dinners at participating restaurants. Commissions are 10
Aruba Gastronomic Association
Aruba Tourism Authority
(ACE Program and Convention)