While we were partying, the occupancy dropped

We just experienced a series of wow events, the Electric Festival, which was professional and exciting, the Happiness 360 Conference, also professional and exciting; the opening of the Industrial Museum, professional and exciting, the Art Fair in San Nicholas, professional and exciting; the ATECH conference, professional and exciting, TEDx Aruba, professional and exciting; the Caribbean North Sea Jazz Festival, you guessed, totally, entirely professional and exciting.

My jaw remained dropped for two weeks with all the professionalism and excitement. I swear, it was a rollercoaster of fun.

It just comes to show what a wonderful island we live in, people are so talented, and so creative, and we’re heading into Restaurant Month and Challenge Aruba, with many talented world-class tri-athletes participating in the inaugural race.

We feel blessed and rich, for so many cultural/art/sport events to unfold on just one island, in a very short period of time.

BUT

The Ministry of Culture has no money, the Ministry of Sports has no money, the Ministry of Tourism on the other hand has lots of money, via the Aruba Tourism Authority, under its special Sui Generis status, and all of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association funds are funneled directly into their coffers.

Seventy-five million from room tax collected by the hotels and 25 million from the $10 per arrival, the Tourism Promotion Levy, that is supposed to be 100% dedicated to marketing. Then of course there is the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund which derives its money from a tax levied on Aruba’s Timeshare owners, another couple of millions. Well, over 100 million in total, with which the Aruba Tourism Authority co-sponsors, and partners with many worthy ventures, some of them once or twice removed from tourism!

Back to my story, as it turned out while I was partying at all above events, August snuck in and snuck out, and it wasn’t pretty.

Aruba: Total Visitors August 2016

2016       %        2015        %      %change

USA   50,193  52.1%   53,538   48.0%   -6.2%

Canada 2,313  2.4%  2,773   2.5%   -16.6%

Total all countries  96,319  100%  111,471  100%  -13.6%

Which made me sad. But then one of my hotelier friends pointed out that all of the events I attended had zero to do with tourist marketing & promotion, yet they were partly financed with the funds earmarked for that.  That’s not fair, he said. The money generated by tourism, should be reinvested in tourism marketing.

(Just for you to know, the theory says, you gotta have 4Ps nicely balance in order to be successful: A great Place, a fine Product, mega Promotion, for a fair Price. So the critiques say, we have a great PLACE, we spend buckets on PRODUCTS once or twice removed from tourism, we churn sluggish PROMOTION, and we charge a steep PRICE).

Did tourists come to Aruba for ATECH, no, just a few speakers; Did tourists come to Aruba for the Art Fair, no, just a few artists, and the Electric Festival underperformed, and I even dare venture that Restaurant Month will not generate any addition traffic, but the locals will have a ball, eating out here and there at more attractive prices.

The locals benefit greatly from the generosity of the MinTour — he just donated a few tourism millions to the Aruba Hospitality & Security Foundation. The MinTour puts up all of these events, and many say he will be our next Prime Minister, his machinery is working, even I compliment him all the time on culture and art, while tourist results from the USA are slipping. They have been slipping for a while.

AND, the other ministers are green with envy! The MinTour has all the money in the world and they have zilch.

On August 18th AHATA addressed a letter to the MinPres outlining its concerns, and stating its overall strategic objectives, among many other interesting points. It basically reiterated: “One for you, one for me.” If you spend 48 million on marketing, because that’s what it takes, and additional 14 million on product, i.e. events, and you have 15 million in operating expenses, then you can keep the rest and spend it on propaganda, and local promotions, a net surplus of 17 million to spend as you please, on festival and art fair. BUT first, generate an increased demand from the US, attract new airlift to the island, abandon non-performing markets and most importantly stop the investment in product once or twice removed from tourism!