Public and private sector brainstorm on tourism issues

ORANJESTAD – Discussion, debate and innovation in looking towards “The future of tourism in Aruba” was the objective of a recent forum held at the Aruba Marriott and organized by the Aruba Timeshare Association (ATSA). Drawing from a think tank of a wide diversity of individuals including government officials, hotel GMs, university professors, union leaders and tourism industry leaders, the day-long forum proved a potentially important step in helping spark discussion, further open communication channels and enable change for the better in Aruba’s tourism product.

“Thirty years after the opening of its first timeshare resort, Aruba has found success and a reliably stable market by creating a vacation tradition among visitors who return year after year and consider Aruba a second home, but challenges are beginning to mount,” explains ATSA President and Playa Linda General Manager Jan van Nes. “We now find ourselves at a crossroad, whereby over 2,500 rooms will be added in the next few years, putting additional pressure on our infrastructure and our labor market. ….We rely on our natural ability for hospitality, but we must also find ways to foster flexibility and improvements in our tourism product.”

Dr. Kevin Murphy, a visiting professor from the University of Central Florida, functioned as the moderator of the forum, helping guide participants in considering Aruba’s tourism against a global environment and the potential affects of economic aspects, politics, socio-cultural factors, technology and ecological issues. Break-out sessions of small groups allowed for open discussion in identifying patterns, timing and possible influences on Aruba’s tourism. Follow-up from the forum will be realized in a “white paper,” analyzing results and laying the foundation for effective tourism action plans.

“We must share a common sense of direction and partnerships must expand not just between the private and public sectors, but also private sector to private sector and public sector to public sector,” comments Dr. Ryan Peterson, dean of the University of Aruba’s Hospitality & Tourism Studies program. “Dialogue is needed, but action is essential.”