The MinTour’s resignation and his legacy

Yesterday in a press conference, in the home of his parents with them sitting by his side, the MinTour finally announced his resignation. He’s been threatening since the beginning of the year, and now finally he’s had it up to here.

With what?

He says: Lack of cooperation with other ministers who regularly boycott his projects.

We say:  With tourism under-performing, he couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen.

We also fault the MinPres for lack of leadership and for his failure to keep his cabinet ministers together. As it stands right now, they all operate as separate galaxies, while the Big Wizard admires his own reflection in the mirror.

So, why is the kitchen so hot?

The following is a flowery ATA press release from March 3rd 2016, in which the Aruba Tourism Authority enthusiastically reports 2015 record-breaking tourism results, saying, and I quote: “Following a record-setting year of 1.07 million stay-over visitors in 2014, The Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) reported total arrivals in 2015 increased by an additional 14.3 percent, totaling 1.22 annual stay-over visitors.”

The propaganda press release goes on and on describing 2015 as a monumental year, praising innovation, creativity, strategic and savvy digital marketing, dozens of awards, increase in tourists spending, bla-bla, presenting an expertly spun tale, far removed from the actual story.

That hyped up statement simply doesn’t stand up to reality.

The so-called record breaking tourism performance was a fluke, a historic anecdote which had nothing to do with tourism, as more than 40,000 poor Venezuelans showed up here, to buy toilet paper and diapers, each month, for almost two years.

When all of those arrivals were added to our tourism statistics, the island indeed looked overachieving, but when you take the Venezuelans out of the equation, you find out that Aruba has been under-performing in the region:

Look at this chart; the numbers for Aruba are stopover arrivals excluding Venezuela. The numbers for the Caribbean are from the World Tourism Organization. You can see that between 2010 and 2015 without Venezuela, we averaged a 3.6% annual growth rate. The average growth rate for the Caribbean was 4.2% per annum. This means we lost market share. Not great considering an ATA marketing budget that doubled.

Stopover Arrivals Aruba’s
Market
Aruba* % pa growth Caribbean** % pa growth Share
2010       733,942          19,500,000 3.76%
2011       750,596 2.3%          20,100,000 3.1% 3.73%
2012       760,733 1.4%          20,600,000 2.5% 3.69%
2013       791,236 4.0%          21,100,000 2.4% 3.75%
2014       820,489 3.7%          22,300,000 5.7% 3.68%
2015       874,017 6.5%          23,900,000 7.2% 3.66%
average p.a. growth rate 3.6% 4.2%
* Without Venezuelan arrivals
** Source: World Tourism Organization

 

Statistics don’t lie. We were doing OK, not great. But the MinTour called it fantastic!

So why did he finally resign? Of course, no cooperation from his fellow ministers. Didn’t Power FM, the radio station owned and operated by the Mintour’s Consigliere been promoting a March for Security, clearly needling and pestering the Minister of Justice. Why should he then cooperate?

We were recently very surprised at the animosity between MinEnergy and MinTour, over a piece of public art. They were both fighting over the domination of San Nicholas.

Was the MinTour perhaps upset the Juan David Irausquin is potentially back from exile? Or perhaps the going got tough, and with dwindling tourism numbers, it was hard to adjust to the new reality from his perch on the glorified pedestal?

A pedestal by definition is small and restrictive. And the MinTour got use to the accolades showered on him by the Aruba Tourism Authority. Praise is after all addictive.

In defense of the MinTour we have to admit that he is a mover and shaker, he can get things done, and we wish we could harness his energy in a more collaborative way. But as mentioned many times before, he is a one man show, and finds it hard to work in a team. His partners in the industry, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, gave up on the relationship, or the lack of, just recently.

We know it was hard for him to let go. The MinTour is a dedicated AVP party member, green at heart, he’s worked with that party’s greatest, and has devoted more than 20 years to politics out of which he served seven as government minister.

There is no love lost between him and MEP, they quagmire him in court in the past, and we think he won’t go there.

He had 4008 voters in the 2013 election and he most probably will ask for their support when Blue becomes the new green, his new political party.

Does he have any money to campaign? We think he does. His Consigliere owns the exploitation rights to the Aruba logo and there are other rumored businesses he is involved in.  So we think he is going to be OK, because as a resigned Minister, he’s out of government and out of a job, and he has a family to feed.

Bottom line: What has the island and the industry lost? If you look at tourism production (as per the above graph) during his tenure, nothing much. The actual numbers never matched the hype and  Aruba under-performed in comparison to the rest of the region 3.6% growth VS 4.2%, yet we doubled our spending compared to the rest of the region.

Under his leadership, the ATA bank financed a flood of music festivals, plastic blue horse, parking meters, which totally destroyed merchants, in businesses which were already struggling, and other product related expenses. The money could have been used to improve the Parkietenbos Dump and garbage situation on the island.