Vacation ownership celebrates 40 years in Aruba

With the opening of the Aruba Beach Club forty years ago, the island was introduced to timeshare, which served us well, thanks to the concept’s unique ability to hug and hold guests for repeat-repeat visits.

Timeshare worked wonders for Aruba and helped fend off economic slumps and promotional dips. The island’s timeshare owners remained a constant in our economy, and we want to think it will go on forever.

But this year, perhaps for the first time, the resorts are reporting high occupancies, but less butts in beds, meaning that while the owners showed up for the annual fix, the density declined. The large Venezuelan families were missing, and perhaps the Millennials refused to go on winter vacations with their families, to the same place, for the umpteenth time.

ATSA, the Aruba Time Share Association, is paying attention to the shifts in the market, and is gearing up for an active year under the leadership of a new dynamic president.

ATSA was formed a few years ago when the timeshare resorts felt they were being taxed without representation. They seceded from AHATA; meaning withdrew from the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, and now maintains their own association, their own identity, while still collaborating with the industry as a whole.

Some hotels such as Divi Resorts and La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino maintain dual memberships, in both associations, and while AHATA is out there vocal and opinionated ATSA shies away from the limelight, but that is about to change.

The new board for 2017 includes a young-generation President, Ursell Arends, La Quinta; and some older, experienced foxes, Secretary Andy Osbourne, Paradise Beach Villas; Treasurer Freddy Albertus, Paradise Beach Villas; Board Members Jurgen van Schaijk, Amsterdam Manor and Erwin Noguera, Marriott Ocean Club, who just came on board when he volunteered to give some of his time to the association’s cause.

In the recent meeting the new president presented his members with a detailed strategic plan, aiming to ensure that ATSA remains the relevant, vibrant and sustainable voice of vacation ownership.

The association intends to grow its members’ base to include condos, residences and other developments; it also intends to maintain its position as a marketplace watchdog, supporting the highest standards and ethics in the vacation ownership industry.

In November, ATSA plans to host a Vacation Ownership conference, celebrating the achievements of the past 40 years and planning for the next 40, the conference will increase members’ engagement, raise industry awareness and improve communication with all stakeholders.

ATSA also plans to maintain involvement with international organization such as ARDA and CHTA, to benchmark and learn best practices from colleagues in the region.

As for Government Advocacy, ATSA will continue pushing for a reasonable Beach Policy and sound environmental practices and in general address the cost of doing business in Aruba with the government, discussing import duties, and the cost of electricity, among other subjects.

At the end of the ATSA board meeting, Joe Najjar, GM, La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino gave an informative presentation regarding the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund, financed by ATSA.

The TPEF money, spent at the discretion of the Ministry of Tourism, is derived from a tax levied on ATSA members. It amounts to millions, and should be spent on project DIRECTLY related to enhancement, trash cans on the beaches, trash collection, the maintenance of swim zones, and many other valuable projects, no concerts, no conferences, no Carrubian Festival!

At the end of the meeting ATSA members received the good news that Marietta Ras, a hotelier with an accounting background was recently appointed the MinTour’s senior advisor. ATSA welcomed the news warmly, as Marietta certainly knows the inside workings of the industry, and could apply the teachings of her rich experience in her new position.