Bati Bleki Sept 22nd, 2014

CASA ALISTAIRE, SAVANETA. One of my local media celebrity friends celebrated her birthday at Casa Alistaire in Savaneta this weekend. The reason her name shall remain unknown is that she only invited a handful of people instead of the usual armies, so to avoid dark feelings of rejection, her name shall remain secret! The historic house hangs over the water, surrounded by a rustic wooden deck, overlooking the Savaneta lagoon. It doesn’t get more spectacular than that. The artistic owner filled the residence with chic bric-a-brac, for an eclectic, bohemian, comfy interior with lots of inviting places to just flop, snooze or day dream. Within walking distance to Zeerover’s and the Flying Fishbone, residents of Casa Alistaire are guaranteed an epicurean experience. Our hostess made gourmet burgers on the grill chased down by chilled Prosecco, to candle light, as the electricity went in and out, Elmar was having a bad day! Check it out on line for your next intimate event, or for the family upcoming stay-cation!
AHATA IS RECRUITING NEW MEMBERS. In an effort to recruit more members, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association restructured its fees, making it possible for more small businesses to join. For example if you employ anywhere from 1 to 9 employees, your membership fee is US$300 per annum. A slightly bigger company, 10 to 19 employees, requires a US$600 membership, and a company with 20 to 49 employees, will be charged US$1,000. This opens the door for more tourism-related enterprises such as Total Cleaning – 760 employees, who signed up recently. Ronald van Trigt and Gilbert Dijkhoff used the opportunity at the recent AHATA general meeting at the Hyatt Regency to network and exchange business cards with the resort general managers. AHATA in its present format is a lobbying organization, attending the yawn-inspiring social monologue meetings on behalf of the hospitality sector and representing the hoteliers in government circles. A special $0.50 per sold room levy was just approved by the membership, collected in conjunction with the environmental levy to bankroll and sustain AHATA’s efforts at becoming a much more effective lobbying organization, providing substantive direct benefits to its members.
CHRISTMAS IN SEPTEMBER. The Radisson hosted two successful evening events thanking corporate clients for their ongoing support and asking for their future holiday business. With the press on hand, General Manager Mark Lyttleton-Frances was much in demand and asked repeatedly to comment on developments regarding the sale of the resort real estate. There is no story, Frances said, you will be the first ones to know, in time, when decisions are made, meanwhile it’s business as usual, and we promise to take good care of your yearend corporate and private functions.
AMAZONIA FOLDED. Every time a business folds it sends shock waves into the surrounding community, raising the inevitable question: How can a giant like that go down. Some of my restaurant operator friends told me they are not surprised because it gets exceedingly difficult to run that kind of show with record-high costs in Aruba. Amazonia Churrascaria was conceived at the time when our love affair with meat was rekindled. But then over time with our rising levels of cholesterol, meat has fallen out of grace, again. So very high food cost, elevated labor costs as in specialized carvers in addition to waiters, even the pretty wooden floor at Amazonia was high maintenance. It was all fancy, and large and all you can eat. And I guess fancy, large and all you can eat doesn’t work that well anymore. Thus the restaurant tried to reinvent itself, with an a la carte menu, adding pasta, building a sports bar and a sushi bar. All that worked, but not fast enough. The minister of labor advised employees to safeguard their rights and not seek alternative employment. I say look for another job ASAP. The new Riu Antillas is hiring and so is the Ritz Carlson and the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, just go to their website and apply. Turn a new page, reinvent yourself. Your cheese moved. Now you gotta move. I noticed some former staffers in the Texas de Brazil uniforms, that was fortunate for them to find employment befitting their exact qualifications.
PUBLISHING AIN’T EASY. The 2014 edition of the Best of Aruba Magazine is not out yet. After a drawn out and boring so called award ceremony the magazine is having publishing delays, because in order to publish a magazine you actually need to know something about the biz. Also, the Green Shopping Magazine that was invisible for the past 6 months, nowhere to be found, resurfaced recently with a handful of copies heralding the arrival of its sales representative on the island. Advertising is great and you should do it, only pick carefully where your money goes!
HIT AND RUN. One of my friends lost a much-loved, two year old, adopted-from- the-street dog, to reckless driving, in a residential neighborhood. Max got out when the gate was accidentally left open, and some careless driver bump him, after dark, and kept driving. He stumbled a bit, then expired on the side of the road. Remember, you are required to stop, and render help in case of an accident, and your failure to stop is labeled hit and run, with serious consequences, the most dire of them: How can you live with yourself having failed to help??
WHAT ATCA TALKED ABOUT. We had cocktails at sunset with some old industry friends at the The Mirador Deck, Blue Residence, with delicious bites by chef Urvin Croes. My ATCA delegate friends reported being perplexed by the divide between the minister’s insistence on quality tourists with higher discretionary income and the island’s business reality in which the all-inclusive hotels book the fastest, with Riu Palace and the Occidental Grand at the top. How does that sit with the island’s expressed desire for more upscale tourists especially in view of the fact that second-tier brands such as Residence Inn, Comfort Inn and Hyatt Place are reportedly slated for opening, not to mention the Bahia Princess Hotel giant which will really earmark Aruba as a mass-market all inclusive hoopla, and will kiss our deep-pocketed EP guests goodbye.

EXTRA PROUD. We can be extra proud of several local restaurants listed in the 2014 Annual Restaurants Guide, in the August 2014 of Wine Spectator Magazine, lauded for having an excellent wine list, namely Aqua Grill, L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House, Papiamento Restaurant, Ruth’s Chris, the Sunset Grill, and the defunct Amazonia Churrascaria, post mortem, winners of the restaurant awards program, labeled as the must-try establishments at the vanguard of wine-and-food culture, say wine man Govert van der Hout, Arion Wine Company N.V.