PALM BEACH – In seeking ways to work together to reach needed solutions, Aruba Timeshare Association (ATSA) representatives continue to bring attention to matters that are of concern to timeshare owners as well as the entire tourism industry. By recently allowing timeshare owners a venue in which to share experiences and opinions about the new admission policy and the turnover tax, new light was shed on the real life implications of such measures as they currently stand. In February of this year, ATSA also met with Minister of Tourism and Transportation Edison Briesen in order to approach an additional five main concerns deserving attention including security, the environment and cleanliness of the island, watersports regulation, customer service and the labor market.

“We recognize that Aruba is at the crossroads in 2006, in facing quite some challenges, and we also realize that collective efforts are the best way in which to turn things around for the better,” explained ATSA President Jan van Nes. “ATSA is committed to working together in being part of the solution and in securing a positive future for the next generation.”

As confirmed by the Central Bank of Aruba statistics, timeshare owners make up a significant percentage of visitors to Aruba at 250,000 per year. While numbers in stay-over guests has decreased in the first eight months of 2006, timeshare visitors to the island have increased by almost two percent. In welcoming more guests to Aruba and in providing timeshare owners and all of Aruba’s visitors the best possible experience while on island, ATSA foresees further efforts need to be made in maintaining Aruba’s main selling points and also in readdressing recent policies.

Minister Briesen was receptive to the ATSA presentation and commented that problems need to be dealt with on a broad basis, not just among ATA, AHATA and ATSA, but with the participation of all government departments and ministries. “The problems we are facing not only affect tourism but are important to the entire community,” he remarked. “There are many different issues, but I believe we are still on time in being able to bring about change, for ourselves and also for timeshare owners who oftentimes provide that essential word-of-mouth advertising for our island.”

Andy Osbourne, ATSA treasurer, commented that ATSA must be critical in order to better handle the challenges ahead. “We pride ourselves on our hospitality, yet we are now faced with serious obstacles to providing quality service to our visitors. Restrictive policies regarding work permits makes it difficult for resorts to retain qualified staff members. With the additional construction of timeshare and condo projects, adding about 5,000 rooms in the next few years, we foresee that labor issues will remain a major concern.”

ATSA will further seek private and public sector collaboration through a forum being held together with the University of Aruba and the Aruba Management and Training Institute (AMTI) on November 30. The government and all of the island’s tourism-related associations have been invited to the forum in an effort to help create a coherent strategy in approaching issues crucial to Aruba’s tourism industry.