WEEHAWKEN, N.J. -- Aruba officials have more than 1,000 travel
agents enrolled in the Aruba Certified Expert (ACE) program and
hope to double that number this year, said Marcial F. Ibarra, North
American director of the Aruba Tourism Authority.
Ibarra said agents are offered plenty of incentives to complete
the ACE program, a home-study course launched two years ago,
including advance notice of special deals, value-added promotions
and fam trip invitations.
Agents completing the course also are eligible to earn
continuing education units from the Institute of Certified Travel
Ibarra noted that agents will be able to take the course later
this year via a recently launched Web site, at http://agents.aruba.com.
The site eventually will feature information on promotions,
packages, events and news.
Both the ACE program and the Web site -- along with a growing
cruise business -- are aiding Aruba's recovery from the effects of
The tourism authority had bumped up its tourist effort -- and
tour operator business -- after Sept. 11 by offering visitors
booked on packages $200 in "Aruba On Us" spending money to use on
various goods and services.
The promotion was so successful that the offer was terminated a few
days ahead of schedule because the subsidy sum had been exhausted,
However, he added, occupancy figures still remain behind last
Other positive signs include US Airways' January increase to
daily service from Charlotte, N.C., and American's new schedule
from Boston providing five flights per week.
U.S. arrivals, which annually account for 64% of the island's
visitors, numbered more than 440,000 last year, a 2% decline from
Visitors from the East, Midwest and West average a 7.2 day-stay
compared with Southern guests, who stay 5.8 days.
Also helping to boost arrivals are several value-added
promotions, such as "One Cool Honeymoon," in which participating
properties feature free champagne or wine, souvenir gifts and a
free hotel night the following year.
Another such program is "One Cool Family Vacation," which
provides free accommodations at 14 resorts for up to two children
ages 12 and younger, free breakfast, kids' activities and a family
Both plans include discounts or free offers on car rentals,
entertainment, gambling, excursions, horseback riding, scuba
lessons and merchandise.
Ibarra said the value-added offers "make Aruba competitive with
other destinations, although the vacation experience itself is
highly-rated by agents and travelers."
He cited the ASTA/Fodor's Hot Spot Survey for winter 2002, in
which agents ranked Aruba the most popular Caribbean
Aruba took first place among Caribbean destinations in the U.S.
Consumer Travel Survey 2001, published by Travel Weekly last
September, where it also ranked among the world's top 10
Ibarra said the island's location -- 15 miles north of Venezuela
and away from the hurricane zone -- is a big selling point. Another
is the U.S. Customs pre-clearance service in Aruba's airport.
Weddings for nonresidents now are allowed, and hotels are
reporting strong demand for wedding packages, Ibarra said.
Activities cover the spectrum
WEEHAWKEN, N.J. -- Outdoor enthusiasts, gear up for action:
Aruba's activities and events take place on land and in, on and
under the water.
Popular with duffers is the 18-hole, par-71 Tierra del Sol golf
course, designed by Robert Trent Jones II.
Daily greens fees range from $68 to $133, depending upon season
and time of play.
Scuba divers and snorkelers have a choice of 11 dive operators
which offer excursions to a number of sites, such as the Natural
Pool near Daimari on the island's northern coast.
Windsurfers will find six specialty firms, as well as the
Hi-Winds World Challenge, a major annual windsurfing tournament,
set this year for June 27 to July 2 at Fisherman Huts near the
Aruba Marriott Resort & Casino on Palm Beach.
The Aruba Jazz & Latin Festival will take place June 28 and
29. The site has not yet been announced. -