Looking back at Sun Development & Casa del Mar, edited from the resort’s 30th anniversary newsletter

Sun Development Company was a dynamic enterprise owned and operated by Aruban entrepreneurs, architects and engineers.  Right from the start, the company’s goal was to create interval ownership resorts on Aruba.  On April 1st 1977, SD opened the Aruba Beach Club, the island’s first timeshare resort and the 8th resort ever listed in the RCI portfolio worldwide. The success of the Aruba Beach Club led to another project, even more ambitious, the Playa Linda Beach Resort, a multi-level luxury timeshare in the high rise hotel area, where the first phase became available in 1983. Casa del Mar followed in quick succession, in 1986, and Costa Linda Beach Resort concluded the run in 1991.

Using the latest in construction techniques, SD completed phase I of CDM in record time. The resort distinguished itself from its sister properties, by offering more spacious two bedroom suites. The decision to go big paid off, as the first phase sold out even before the building was completed.

While I knew that in 1987 SD expanded its local interests beyond just hotels, I did not know that the company also acquired the famous floating Bali Restaurant, as well as a substantial interest in S.E.L. Maduro & Sons, one of the most prestigious travel-oriented companies on Aruba.  In 1989, SD opened the iconic La Trattoria el Faro Blanco, perched on the hilltop adjacent to the California Lighthouse, with spectacular island views. SD also developed Sun  Plaza  Shopping  and Office  Center, a commercial mall in Eagle which served as its headquarters. Last but not least, the jewel of the crown, Tierra  del  Sol Golf  Course, Resort & later Spa, created Aruba’s first planned residential community. All said, SD’s investment in Aruba at the time, exceeded $170 million.

SD often referred to owners at their various resorts as the Sun People, regardless of what resort they stayed, everyone was part of the Sun family. The company cleverly created a highly exclusive  club  of  loyal  owners,  who  to  this  day  keep  coming back to Aruba, contributing to the local economy.

True to its origins, SD trusted in the talent of Arubans, at every company level, locals made up a large part of management, accounting and department staff.  All managers were trained by prominent U.S. resort experts, building on, and further developing the genuine, natural warmth of the Arubans. The entrepreneurs  at the helm, Raymond  Maduro,  Dan  Oduber  and  Tito  Muyale,  all believed  the  success  of  their  business may be traced to the friendliness and ease with which the Arubans communicated with visitors at their resorts.

The company’s four core beliefs, exemplified the mutual dependence of employer/employee, working on behalf of the Aruban community as SD developed tourist and leisure oriented projects, assured that its obligations to customers were fulfilled, while encouraging employees in their careers and self-development, and at the same time operating profitably.

Although the company has since folded, the properties and business models created have continued to have a tremendous impact on Aruba and the local economy. Many of the owners who bought their lifetime ownerships in the 1980s, still come to the island with their families or have handed their timeshare down to the next generation, to the kids who grew up loving the island, bringing their own kids here to experience the evolution of Aruba and its people.

SD embarked on a journey during a time when no one really thought Aruba  needed tourism  and  30  years  later,  tourism  has become the largest economic pillar, of which timeshare is a vital contributor, all thanks to the vision and the passion of the young  professionals who saw the potential here.

As for CDM, its history is intrinsically linked to the Aruba Beach Club Resort, and to the island itself.

In the 1970s, the concept of hotels, especially timeshare resorts, was novel and experimental. Aruba at the time had some modest guest houses, and efficient small motels. Hotels were seen as too big and luxurious for such a small island.

The  sentiment  among  locals  was  that  Aruba  didn’t  need  a tourism  industry,  since it enjoyed the presence of a very  successful  oil  refinery, which supported the Aruban economy, well.

The group of young Aruban entrepreneurs who started SD were almost clairvoyant in that respect, setting up a tourism industry with an eye on the future.

Timeshare was introduced here in 1974, at the ABC, and developers had to jump through a great number of hoops to realize their dream.

But the fearless trio, Raymond  Maduro,  Dan  Oduber  and  Tito  Muyale  were  undeterred  and  in  1977,  when they opened ABC  the years of struggle paid off.  And then without resting on their laurels, they went off to build Playa Linda Beach Resort.

SD was an important player during the crisis years, when Lago’s oil refinery closed on March 31st 1985. The shutdown of the refinery led to unemployment, and SD became a major employer with the construction of CDM.

CDS was announced earlier in April of 1984, as a 130 room extension of ABC, but then the decision was made to create an independent resort whose first stone was laid in June of 1984, just months before the closing of the refinery.

On October 4th 1986, phase I of CDM was ready, welcoming 150 employees back into the work force. Aruba’s tourism was taking off and SD sold out its inventory fast; then on July 17th 1987, it announced the second phase, which readied in January 1989, with many existing ABC members buying or upgrading units at CDM.

At a construction progress news conference on August 12th, 1988, the construction of the final third phase of CDM was made public, called the Ambassador wing, inaugurated on December 22nd, 1989, with the official Grand Opening performed by Phillip Glazier, a member at CDM.

During the Grand opening ceremony, Aruba’s Prime Minister Nelson Oduber presented a plaque to Raymond Maduro, recognizing SD for its important contributions to the Aruban Tourism Industry.

The Ambassador wing added 40 beautiful one bedroom, one bathroom suites to the complex, complete with its own swimming pool and spacious pool deck. This year in December, the Ambassador wing will be celebrating its 27th anniversary.

On its 30th anniversary, CDM boasts 147 well-appointed units, and although it may be considered a smaller resort, the accommodations are anything but small. The suites themselves are large and luxurious enough to comfortably sleep families of four to six people.

Most guests feel that the Ambassador wing offers a more tranquil experience while the Presidential wing on the beach delivers a more fast-paced vacation. Both live up to their promise, to help create unforgettable experiences on the island of Aruba.

Today CDM is undertaking several projects which will streamline guest services. It is also exploring various green initiatives to reduce its global footprint.  One of such projects includes a website portal, which will allow members to view and pay maintenance fees online, view the annual convocation and vote online, list units for sale or rental, as well as buy or rent additional weeks.

The resort continues finding ways to help the environment by minimizing the use of paper, installing more eco-friendly lighting fixtures, reducing energy consumption and actively encourage recycling. The resort has also replaced grass and plants with indigenous plants and cactus, which require less water to cut down on the use of one of the islands most precious resources.

And talking about progress, the resort travelled from #16 to #7 on Tripadvisor.com and has been upgraded from a Select Resort to the highest ranking, Premier Resort, in the Interval International worldwide ranking. CDM has become an established timeshare property over the course of the last 30 years with an impressive sold out percentage, 98%, and a loyal owner base.

Looking  ahead  to the  future,  the  next  five years  look  extremely  bright  for  CDM, as it is committed to  upgrade  and  improvement of services; the goal is to continue the past 30-year prosperity,  well  into  the  future.

In  conjunction  with  an  interior designer, CDM is currently in the process of developing a conceptual design  scheme  to  blend  the  public  areas  with  guest  units  and bring back the warm tropical feel which attracted members to Aruba in the first place. Renovations are expected to conclude over the next few years. It is the goal of CDM to continue to evolve in the hope that future owner-generations will continue to see the resort as their home away from home.

While CDM has been through good times and turbulent times over three decades, the sun rises every day, and so does the resort and its congenial, caring staff, rising to the challenge to serve their guests the best they can.