Aruba is sticking to its fourth-quarter forecast of 70% hotel occupancy or higher, said Myrna Jansen, managing director of the Aruba Tourism Authority.

"Although we usually have occupancy in the 80-90% range in the fourth quarter, we're seeing that people are still traveling to Aruba right now, even in these tight economic times," Jansen said.

The destination expects its 2008 visitor total to be 5% ahead of last year, when the island drew 772,000 stayover visitors; 72% were from the U.S.

Heading into the peak winter season, Aruba has an inventory of 7,400 guest rooms in 28 resorts. Properties have recently invested $500 million in renovations.

Air capacity totals 30,000 airline seats on seven airlines from 12 U.S. gateways. Airlift has increased not only from key U.S. markets but also from South America, Italy and the U.K.

A new marketing campaign focuses on the friendliness of the Aruban people.

The government stepped in with an additional $10 million for marketing and promotion in 2009, acknowledging that more spending was required to encourage travel.

"We don't expect to grow next year, but our numbers will not decrease," Jansen said.

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