nce upon a time, there was a hotel in
the capital city of a Caribbean island. The hotel changed its name
after a management switch.
To give the place a shot in the arm, the owner of the hotel
spent plenty of money to fix it up after the name change.
He wanted everyone to see his "new" hotel. So, he threw a party
and invited lots of people. He also called in some experts to help
him spread the news of his "new" hotel.
That's called rebranding. And here is the story of that
The rebirth of the Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort & Casino
in Oranjestad began with the sale of the former Sonesta property in
Managing director Mark Nooren, who was at the Sonesta's helm and
now heads the Renaissance hotel team, said the property had an
identity crisis, even before the name and management change.
"We are a spread-out property. We're difficult to sell," Nooren
said. "We have two separate guest-room complexes. We have a private
island, a conference center, two casinos, a shopping complex called
Seaport Village and several restaurants and lounges.
"Many guests do not realize that all of these components are
part of the Renaissance Aruba property," he said.
"We are on the waterfront but not on the beach," he added. "We
are in the capital city."
As the resort neared completion last month on a $15 million
renovation and upgrade, Nooren and his team called in the hotel's
newly formed, 14-member Advisory Council for a focus session on how
to reposition and reintroduce the Renaissance to travel agents.
The council consisted of several tour operators, representatives
from meetings and incentive groups, online travel sellers, a
marketing consultant and two members of the press (including yours
We were shown the results of the renovation and asked for our
feedback on how to develop a cohesive resort story.
"We are doing things differently here," Nooren said. "We have
chosen to zag while others zig, and there is a lot of zagging going
Six components distinguish the Renaissance, according to Nooren.
• Renaissance Island, the resort's 40-acre private island,
reached by a 10-minute complimentary boat ride from the water-taxi
dock in the lobby.
• The new, 22-minute "Experience Aruba Panorama" film shown
several times a day in the resort's theater.
• "Let's Go Latin," the resort's Las Vegas-style show performed
nightly with Cuban dancers, costumes and music.
• The renovated pool, beach area and 260 guest rooms at the
Beach Tower, which front a lagoon and small beach.
• The resort's new lobby bar called Blue, located in the Marina
Tower and modeled after lounges in Miami's South Beach district in
terms of ambience, lighting, jazz and martinis. Blue will open
early next year "and will be positioned as a happening night spot
for hotel guests, island and cruise visitors and locals," Nooren
• The resort's staff, many of whom go back to the Sonesta days,
"consistently rank at the top of our guest comment cards," Nooren
These components, in addition to the property's renovations,
"signal our renaissance," Nooren said. "We want agents to know that
this is not just another Caribbean hotel."
OK, great, we said, but the changes and improvements do not
matter if agents don't get the big picture. We told them that the
best things the resort has going for it -- airport proximity,
in-town location and the private island -- must be made clear.
Some of us suggested they change the word "tower" used to
designate the room locations (Beach Tower and Marina Tower) because
neither building is more than five stories high. Perhaps "club" or
"village" would be more appropriate.
"This is a city hotel with a private island, but you have to
cross a street to get to some of the rooms. Why not build a bridge
over the street?" an online seller asked.
A meetings planner complained that the "flow process is screwy.
Why is the conference center near the beach and the spa in the main
Some said the resort was too splintered in its effort to be all
things to many markets.
"The first goal is to convince people to come, which means you
have to get agents on your side," a tour operator said.
Another suggested "more signage around the resort."
"An easy sell is what we're after," the marketing consultant
said. "Staying here is a real Aruba experience: It's safe, it's
cultural, it's a happening place with a private island for whimsy
and the capital city right at the doorstep. Communicate that
effectively and the booking is a done deal."
The session wrapped up at lunchtime. A tour operator had the
final thought: "This resort is like a cruise ship that's not
moving. There's lots to do and see here. Just get the clients here
-- they'll return."
We all agreed. The Renaissance Aruba is a different kind of
Caribbean hotel -- one that seeks critiques and suggestions from
its travel partners, who can sometimes be its harshest critics.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].
• • •
Room key: Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort &
Address: L. G. Smith Blvd. 82, Oranjestad, Aruba
Phone: (800) 223-6388
Location: Waterfront property in Oranjestad, near
cruise ship pier and a shopping complex, about 10 minutes from the
Managing director: Mark Nooren
No. of rooms: 560
Facilities: Private island reached by resort
launch, Seaport Village shops, Okeanos Spa, four restaurants, two
casinos, three pools.
Rates: Rack rates from $249 to $345 per room, per
night, double from Jan. 3 to April 16. Packages also are
Noteworthy: One of Renaissance Island's three
beaches is designated for kids and families. The other two offer
peace, quiet, flamingos and birds. Resort staff is friendly,
helpful and proud of the property.
Not worthy: Traffic noise and music at night carry
up to the rooms overlooking the pool deck in the Marina Tower.
Resort layout is initially confusing for first-timers.
Aruba's sights and sounds
Some recommendations while on the island:
• "Explore Aruba Panorama," a new, 22-minute, big-screen,
destination-oriented film offers viewers a glimpse of Aruba's
highlights, history, Holland ties, culture, religion and Carnival.
The film is shown from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week in the
Crystal Theater in the Renaissance Aruba; tickets are $10 for
adults, and $5 for children under 12.
• Alto Vista Chapel, in Aruba's northeast corner, was built in
1750 on top of a hill overlooking the sea. Its stark setting,
mustard-colored walls, and eerie boulders make the little church
well worth a visit.
• Aruba's Natural Bridge gets a lot of press coverage, but it
rates a visit, if just to see how the forces of raging wind and sea
have sculpted the coral rock over the ages.
• Even if your clients are not the gambling kind, tell them to
stop in at a casino, drop a nickel or two in the slot machines and
join the frenzy for a few minutes. As a local tour guide pointed
out, "Shark feeding is no longer allowed on Aruba. If you want to
see sharks, just go to the casinos."
• The Archaeological Museum of Aruba in Oranjestad has two rooms
full of Indian artifacts, farm utensils, skeletons---and not a lot
of visitors. Admission is free; hours are 8 a.m. to noon, and 1
p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
• Shopping really is duty-free (no tax) at the large stores in
town and at the hotels, and U.S. visitors can bring up to 10 pounds
of hard cheese through U.S. customs.
• DePalm Tours offers a four-hour Aruba Kayak Adventure tour in
the calm waters off the south coast. If windsurfing isn't your
clients' thing, a kayak tour just might be. The $77 rate covers
resort pickup, instruction, equipment and lunch. Finish the day by
downing a bottle of chilled Balashi (local beer). --