SAN JUAN --
Tourism officials in Aruba, while still shattered by the
disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway last summer and the
subsequent worldwide media coverage, especially by cable news
networks that continue to allege improprieties in the governments
handling of the investigation, announced a number of initiatives
designed to propel its tourism industry forward in 2006.
recognition has never been higher, for better or worse, said Jorge
Pesquera, president and CEO of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism
Authority (AHATA). Despite the publicity surrounding the tragic
disappearance of Natalee Holloway and the events that have
followed, 2005 was a successful year for Aruba in terms of visitor
figures and the launch of new projects on the island. Not all
figures are in yet, but we recorded an overall growth of 3% from
the U.S. market through October.
Echoing that sentiment was
Edison Briesen, minister of tourism, who addressed the media at the
recent Caribbean Marketplace in San Juan.
several projects in the works on the island:
of a second tourism corridor at Baby Beach on the eastern end of
A $60 million
expansion plan at Queen Beatrix International Airport and an
expansion of the cruise ship terminal;
An upgrade and
renovation project in downtown Oranjestad;
The launch of a
tourism-training program for locals called The Promise;
More than $150
million in various hotel renovations;
continuation of Arubas successful ACE (Aruba Certified Expert)
program for agents.
regarding the purchase of the 152-room Bushiri Hotel, which has
been closed and on the market for several years, is expected next
month, according to Briesen said. Several groups are interested in
the property, and we expect that negotiations for its purchase will
be completed in February. The new property will have 350 rooms and
Aruba had its ups
and downs in 2005, but we are looking for a growth of 14% to 15% in
tourism numbers and revenues in 2006, Briesen said. Safety and
hospitality have been the pillars of our tourism industry and will
continue to be so.
Briesen at Caribbean Marketplace was Steve Cohen, identified as a
crisis manager who has served as an adviser to AHATA and the Aruba
Strategic Communications Task Force in the wake of Holloways
consultant with the Strategic Message Design Group in Los Angeles
and a former journalist and broadcaster, predicted an important
break on the Holloway case within the next six months, based on
accelerated search efforts for forensic DNA evidence and the
willingness of Aruban locals to come forward and speak with
officials now that the worldwide media, for the most part, are
leaving us alone, he said.
We also are able
to finally talk to some of the Alabama teens who left on that plane
and did not wait around for interrogation, said Cohen.
reports to the contrary, Cohen said that the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) has been involved in the Holloway case since
the first hours of the initial complaint and did remain on Aruba
for several months, serving as observers and advisors to the local
police. Six FBI agents from Miami arrived within 24 hours of
Aruba has been
focused on finding Holloway from the outset, Cohen said, citing
various government and private search and investigative
He said that the
call for a boycott of Aruba by the governors of Alabama, Arkansas
and Georgia has had no effect on the investigation or on tourism to
the island, a statement supported by Briesen, who said, the U.S.
South is one of our smaller markets.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].