Today, May 23rd, is Ed’s Aruba anniversary. He arrived on the island today, 30 years ago!
He originally came here to work for a Minneapolis-based hotel company, when the Government of Aruba (ARUVEN) decided to divest, and sell its hotels, among them the Americana.
In reality, back in March of 87, Ed had been asked by his boss if he owned a passport. Then nothing happened. But towards the end of May, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, he was asked to pack up his bag, and hit the road because GOA just pulled the trigger, signed the docs, the Americana in Aruba was being sold to the hotel company that Ed worked for.
Ed recalls his travel agent didn’t quite know where Aruba was when asked to book that flight, 30 years ago, today.
Ed says he took the once daily Eastern Airlines flight from Miami and on the following day at the resort, met the late attorney Roy Brown and union leader Anselmo Pontilius, both memorable personalities who became his well-respected peers.
The atmosphere on the island, as Ed described it, was go, go, go. Status Aparte was in diapers, and the island was in the process of expanding its room capacity, and its airlift. It was a period of immense growth.
His first week here? Ed reports spending the afternoon hours at Arawak Gardens where many resort employees stopped by for a beer after work. “I graduated the Arawak Garden Academy,” he banters, “and learned a lot from listening to my employees before they knew they were my employees.”
That first week after taking control of the hotel, the Caribbean Tourism Conference came to town. Resort Manager Adwina Arends (who actively works with the ATA in New Jersey) had to borrow wine glasses from the neighboring cafe for the CTC functions at the Americana!
The resort was plunged into renovations, building the second tower and growing from 200 to 420 rooms. The meeting spaces were always popular and for a long time if anything big happened on the island it happened at the Americana.
“I was privileged,” Ed concludes his trip down memory lane with gratitude, “working with icons such as Rory Arends, Gerrit Griffith, Harold Malmberg and family, Astrid Muller, Ewald Biemans, many of which are still active today, and we can include Alex Nieuwmeyer in the list,” he adds, “he’s also been here for donkey years.”
After having served on the ATA Board of Directors for 3 years, In January 2014, Ed was asked to help ATA for six months at its North America office and he is still there and loving it, as Area Director for North America.
“I have great admiration for ATA,” he says, ”hard working, incredibly passionate and totally driven people. You can’t hire passion. You can’t train passion. You either have it or not, and my ATA colleagues are on fire,” he adds, “I continue to be inspired by leadership and appreciate the culture that flourishes within the organization.”
Aruba has enjoyed some great success stories in recent years and tourism from the USA has been very positive, despite a challenging 2016. Fortunately in 2017, Aruba started out with a great high season. Many efforts paid off and all pieces fell into place, because of airlift. No airlift means limited growth opportunities, and while demand remains strong, visitors cannot find an available air seat to take here. If Aruba manages to secure more seats, the island shows growth. If the island doesn’t, then growth becomes stagnant.
In the mild winter of 2017, the island showed growth because more seats were available. The hotels ran high occupancies and the airlines showed higher than normal load-factors. According to Ed, and he should know, the outlook for the rest of 2017 from the USA is positive, across the board.
Last week, Ed was on the island on the occasion of the Strategic Planning and Business Planning for 2018 and beyond, creating the business plan for the next 4 years, with his colleagues from North America, Europe, & Latin America.
Aruba has always been a Small Island that thinks BIG, he reiterates, and this has not changed.
As he celebrates May 23rd, as his arrival date in paradise, Ed feels blessed and fortunate to have been in the right place, at the right time. He came to Aruba to work as a hotelier and found a home. He has always been very appreciative of the many friendships he made and the opportunity to be part of the overall development of the tourism industry, not as a witness but as a contributor alongside so many other terrific professionals and community leaders over the years.
Footnote: Ed Malone is the former GM of the Americana (now the Barcelo), a former 5 year President of AHATA and President of the Caribbean Hotel Association. In 1996, he was selected as Caribbean Hotelier of Year by the CHA (one of only 3 hoteliers from Aruba since 1978). Now working with the ATA. Wonderful things have happened to him on his recent 30 year journey, and hopefully more to come.
WHAT THE OFFICIAL NUMBER SAY, courtesy of AHATA:
Aruba’s hotels saw the highest average room occupancy of nine Caribbean destinations in April 2017 and showed the largest month on month increase in occupancy.
* Of the nine destinations tracked five saw higher average room occupancies and four saw declines.
* Both Aruba and the USVI saw 17% increases in their ADRs in April with the overall average being a 9% increase.
* Aruba saw by far the strongest growth in RevPar in April.
* Year to date Aruba’s hotels are showing the highest average room occupancy at 85.8% and has posted the highest growth in average RevPar at 10.5%.