Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, April 30th, 2017

Conflicted

About two weeks ago I met with some condo-owners from Oceania Residence, then last week I heard from some timeshare-owners from Costa Linda Beach Resort.  They were concerned. The guys from Oceania were sincerely worried about over-development of Eagle Beach: The poor turtles running out of nesting space, and the poor locals running out of camping locations.

The guests from Costa Linda had a bigger list, they were sad about Frenchmen’s Pass, and “lots of acts against nature in Aruba, and we want to make this internationally known.”

We’re talking tourists, worried about the good and bad balance tipping over, and wanting to make it public. Their list of grievances included the dump, the quality of our drinking waters, the toxic refinery, and the drill ships parked on the horizon.

And I felt a bit guilty because now that I write, In English, about local issues, some of our dirty laundry is aired in public; in yesteryears, the language barrier protected our visitors from internal affairs — that are for us to sort, and not for them to worry about.

What to do?

To write, or not to write?

Once you put it on paper, you have no control where it’s going. And one board member at Costa Linda Beach Resort assures me my column gets read, and that visitors then ask tough questions.

If I could speak to my readers I would tell them not to worry. Worry about the USA, President Trump, and France, whose gonna win the elections, and the crazies in North Korea. You could also worry about Venezuela, and say a little prayer for the well-being of its brave protesters.

With 120.000 residents, this island is the size of a small village in the USA or the Netherlands. One mayor could take care of the whole shebang, and we have 9,000 civil servants to worry about things.

Last night we gathered for a small party at Arashi, a group of local residents, at sunset, every single person on that patch of white, sugar sand expressed immense gratitude to Aruba, marveling at how good our life is on this island. Imperfect, but pretty fantastic.

This is a true democracy, in great weather, and I will probably continue to write alarmist columns, and you will probably continue to read them, but please don’t worry … go about your vacation undisturbed, and unalarmed.

Make sure your world is in order and we’ll make sure our world is in order, and that way we’ll ALL have a great time.

Diplomatico World Tournament stops in Aruba

Apparently Ron Diplomatico, from Venezuela, is one of the best rums in the world, with a unique rum-making style that combines Hispanic, American and British distillation traditions. The distinguished gentleman’s face on the bottle label leaves no doubt in my mind that it is a quality product, made with pure mountain spring water, honey and sugarcane molasses.

I never heard about it until yesterday.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to the Diplomatico World Tournament, which stopped in Aruba last minute, because of the turbulent, political situation in Venezuela, where it was originally scheduled to unfold.

Businessman Franz Sydow reports that about one week ago, the distillery, situated in his hometown in Venezuela, called and asked to move the semi-finals of the world tournament to Aruba, with 23 bartenders from around the globe competing for a chance to go to London, UK, for the world finals.

So Franz enlisted the help of Elizabeth Guanipa, a local PR and media personality, and together they made it happen, accommodating the contestants, and the organizers at the Ritz Carlton, and setting up the competition at BLT Steak, yesterday in the morning hours, where all competitors master-mixing new and innovative cocktails. The dozen semi-finalists competed again in the afternoon at +297, in a fun, nicely orchestrated event.

At the end of the afternoon, the semi-finalists were announced, they will be travelling on to compete at the Diplomatico World Tournament on June 25th. The lucky winners who were picked by an international panel of celebrity judges were: Representing North America, Kevin Beary from Chicago, representing Central America, Enrique Auvert from Panama, and representing South America, Jose Luus Valencia from Peru, who expertly mixed his winning cocktail wearing white gloves.

Franz Sydow is a true entrepreneur, and I have been following him for the past decades since he opened the first Japanese restaurant, Sushi House, in Aruba, on a rooftop overlooking Oranjestad; then Pasion came next, a Spanish Tasca on the Noord road. He joined the corporate world for a long while as the Food & Beverage Director of the Wydham, then off to Venezuela as a Resort Manager, before the time became too turbulent to bear, and he returned home to Aruba. In between hospitality gigs Franz developed a number of successful real estate ventures, raised a few tennis champions, and opened a wine and spirit distribution company by the name of La Cava, importing Ron Diplomatico to the island, via Panama, besides some fine Argentinean, Chilean and Spanish wines, while waiting for the permits to start construction on his latest project the Zoetry Isla di Oro Aruba, Wellness & Spa . Best of all, he’s been married to the same beautiful woman for all these years.

I tried the Diplomatico reserve Extra Anejo 8 years. Neat. It is  dark and golden, aged for 8 years, resulting in a rich, fruity and sweet, sipping delight. It went straight to my knees.

For more information, please visit http://www.diplomaticoworldtournament.com/

Talk by Raymond Maduro on the occasion of the Aruba Beach Club 40th anniversary celebration

Dear Aruba Beach Club Members and Board Members

Dear Aruba Beach Club Employees

Dear Government Dignitaries

It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to address you all because of this 40th anniversary celebration of our “first baby” and timeshare resort nr. 8 in the free world.

It was in the year 1972 that a good friend visited timeshare nr. 7 in Puerto Rico and thought it important to let me know, that this concept called timesharing or interval ownership, in his vision, would eventually revolutionize the hospitality business in the USA and around the world.

In fact, the timeshare industry played a vital role in the stabilization of the hotel industry in Aruba during hard times. When the transient hotel guest stayed away, the timeshare guest returned faithfully to their vacation home in Aruba

We were developers and I got together my team, which was a small team at the time, and we visited this timeshare resort nr. 7 in Puerto Rico. Immediately we came to the conclusion that this concept would fit perfectly in the growing tourist business of Aruba. Why?

It simply made a lot of sense for vacationers, who loved Aruba, to buy a piece of a resort condominium instead of the whole pie. Also the maintenance, all of a sudden, became a fraction of the maintenance of a full time resort condominium.

As with all new concepts, the wise men and women of the time thought it was ridiculous, unrealistic and insane.  Thank God your parents or grandparents in the 70s, who bought a timeshare at the time, had the confidence and wisdom to see that this made a lot of sense. And they purchased … which is why we are here today celebrating this milestone. And Aruba Beach Club became one of the most famous and successful timeshare resorts of its time.

There are many anecdotes I can share with you…one of them is when one of the architects who designed the Aruba Beach Club sent me an additional bill after its completion.  He did so with the question “Raymond, I have to bill you for US$ 25,000 more for the time we spent on this project, and before you tell me you are not going to pay, I need to ask you to survey your customers on how they feel about their resort.” The fact is that everybody was super happy, content, and in awe of this nice, cozy, and friendly Aruba Beach Club project.  In all honesty, I had no recourse then to pay the additional fee to the architect.  The rest is history…

Another anecdote: I met this gentleman from Long Island on a cruise ship in the late 70s and when he heard I was from Aruba he said to me “You know, I was recently in Aruba on vacation with my wife and we purchased this “something” … we did not know if it was condominium, a membership, a hotel room or what the hell it was we purchased.

We just stayed at the Aruba Beach Club for the first time and it was great! Do you know who put this project together?”

Ladies and gentlemen, and friends of the Aruba Beach Club…On behalf of all my associates, I thank you for the honor of allowing me to address you tonight and also the honor of naming a lounge after me.

And in accepting this honor, I need to mention some of the men and women that dedicated a significant part of their lives, energy and creativity to the well-being and happiness of the members, guests and employees of the Aruba Beach Club. They are many…and please excuse me for not mentioning all.

They are:

Frank Conway (RIP) – Management & Sales

Jan van Nes – Management

Humphrey Hardeveld – Management

Jaap Beaujon and his team – First Management Team

Ena Vrolijk, one of our first Front Desk Managers

Frida la Rosa, Laundry manager working here for the past 39 years

Engelberto Ruiz and Rene Nieuwkerk, who were also both instrumental in the management as well as the design and development of our next projects.

Dan OduberTito Muyale (RIP) architects

Errol Every and Chilito de Kort, who built the project

Carla Koolman – Housekeeping Manager

Aruba Beach Club paved the way in the timeshare industry for other projects on the island and the world. Huge projects like Marriott and Wyndham, Disney Vacation Club have gone in this direction with successful results.

In fact, the interval ownership business has grown consistently every year, and as a result, resorts are getting nicer and improving facilities to attract high end customers. Sales volume of timeshare units worldwide has increased by more than 33% since 2011 – an average of 7% annually.

Tonight I am accompanied by two of my children, Kaye, who now has 2 daughters of her own and Rachel, my youngest, who will be going to college next year.

Kaye was a toddler at the time Aruba Beach Club was built and she spent most of her childhood and teenage years enjoying the beautiful premises on a regular basis during the weekend. She still has fond memories of a time when Sundays were for swimming in the pool or hanging out by the pool bar, while dancing to the melodic tunes of the local band. Employees and guests were one big, happy family and the ambiance was unique and special. I understand it still is.

Locals who became members were and still are part of the scene and enjoyment.

Farida – thanks for inviting me tonight to celebrate this incredible milestone!

Enjoy your evening!

About the Stacking of Rocks

A physical therapist, with an environmental conscience, who according to his FB page lives in Amsterdam – we have 29 friends in common – started a hoopla a few days ago about the rock stacking gardens on the North Coast, condemning an ad that so called promoted the activity in a local tourist magazine, endorsed by the hotel association.

Rock stacking: This has been going on here for at least ten years, cruise ship passengers, resort guests and locals, have been stacking rocks in remote areas, to commemorate special moments, or make a wish; it has been going on in the universe since pre-historic times. Humans stack rocks, don’t ask me why.

It didn’t take long before some crafty jeweler started exploiting the silly sentiment, mass-producing and selling a trinket, as a reminder of the stacking; a coupon, a website and a hash tag followed. You know that the exploitation of sentiments is shameless.

Then in view of scarce advertising dollars, the publisher of the magazine accepted the advertising concept, why would he turn down an opportunity, to publicize an opportunist?!

So when the tempest in a teacup broke, the hotel association said sorry, the publisher pleaded not guilty, and the physical therapist with the environmental conscience gleefully posted a FUN day activity – his capitalization – on the North Coast, on Sunday, April 29th, titled “Rock Stacking Demolishing Derby,” please bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water, the FB invitation read.

Such as admirable environmental conscience. I am impressed. Having taken on the Aruba refinery, and the Parkietenbos dump, the citizens of this island are now up in arms against the stacking of rocks.

Well, you know I am dreaming, no one protested the refinery, and we’re all tired of talking about the dump, and the coral reef, and the trees, and the beach, but going out on a Sunday afternoon with a baseball bat, against rock? That’s definitely do-able. Not as complicated as taking on GOA and CITCO.

Honey, your priorities are screwed up. Take the energy and harness it to make the refinery go away. Leave the rocks along. They might actually mean something to somebody. Go after the fig fish, leave the guppies alone.

Or how about getting together on a Sunday afternoon with whitewash and brushes to clean all walls defiled by the graffiti criminal, accusing Aruba of being pro you-know-what?!

That would be a worthwhile public activity.

Chogogo is a fun ride

Celebrating Magic 96.5FM 19th anniversary we were invited to a cocktail party on wheel, on a windowless bus with a dedicated driver, a professional DJ and a cute bartender, going on a trip to nowhere.

We boarded the bus at the South Beach Center, about one dozen DJs and radio personalities, and got off at the same spot three hours later, having enjoyed a private disco party, with cocktails and snacks on board.

The bus first circled Palm Beach, and the view just above street level and people’s heads offers a new perspective on life, an in-your-face panorama. Yes, it was me waving at you on Wednesday night. I was hanging with my head out the window, checking things out.

The music, at 109.6 decibel, it was powerful. I have a kill-joy sound meter app in my phone. It told me that sound at 85dBA or above can permanently damage my ears, and that anything over 100dBA can start damaging cells after only 30 minutes of listening. I was listening for three hours. Serious damage I think. But the music was terrific, by a very young mixer, mixing Latin and Caribbean hits.  He did his best to impress the guest DJs on board the bus, some of the island’s best, working for the radio station.

Down at Eagle Beach we noticed a few kids trying to dig their car out of the sand. Serves them right for attempting to drive over the white powder.

Down the highway to San Nicholas. It’s not a highway right now, it is an obstacle course. The under-construction-road meanders endlessly and we discovered at least three new roundabouts with giant boulders, artistically laid as environmental sculptures.

By this time, the girls were dancing, hanging on the poles and ceiling straps. It is a strange sensation to be to standing while driving, achieving balance, overcoming velocity, and holding on to a drink. It takes a while to master the act.

We stopped in Savaneta at a Chinese bar and restaurant, Wing Wag, whose sign still sports the five digit telephone number, that’s from thirty years ago. My friends tell me that bar is always busy and that they make good Chinese soup!

San Nicholas was fast asleep when we arrived, crawling through the main street. The bad boys on the bus tried to convince the working girls at the Chica Bar to get on board with them, but the chicas weren’t buying. They had a job to do and they were not going to be distracted.

Other than that, the streets were empty, the house dark.  Our bus, a pool of light and music, glided in and then out again, we were busy on board, with snacks, cocktails and selfies.

Check out their FB page: /www.facebook.com/chogogopartybus/

Or call 592-4955, to experience Aruba’s nightlife on your own disco own wheels, on board Chogogo Party Bus.

 

OP=OP in Savaneta is open

Savaneta was ready for a new shopping experience. When I arrived there yesterday, shortly before 9am, with the intention to enter the new store, I was confronted by the reality that the line was very long. Apparently the whole town had the same idea.

It was a classic store opening, one that should be studied closely, by those with the intention to enter retail. The Four Ps were in their ultimate representation a far as Product, Price, Promotion and Place.

The Product: Op=Op is a popular Dutch chain offering personal care, household and health products, the things we use every day, including toilet paper and laundry detergent.

Price: Because Op=Op operates 128 retail outlets in the Netherland, it buys in enormous quantities. Chain founder Vincent Alkema, who was here for the Savaneta opening smiles when he says,” We buy a lot,” in typical Dutch understatement. At 39, Alkema is at the helm of a successful business empire.

Promotion: The store promoted itself nicely by sending us home a pamphlet with familiar brands at ridiculously low price. It also promised a gift with every purchase for the first 100 clients – mission accomplished by 10:30am. Best of all it opened on Friday, a semi-holiday, between holidays. The Savaneta crowd enjoyed shopping at leisure, they were not in a rush to go to work, and they lingered studying the incredible selection.

Place: Genius location. The store stood empty for many years. Remember if was a Subway, then a car ran into it, causing extensive damage and it was never repaired. The place never recovered. Recently, the Aruba Growth Fund struck a deal with the owner to fix it up, and Savaneta enjoyed shopping there yesterday.

I had a list of stuff I needed, but no way, there was a great number of people in front of me. So, I swung by the Discount Store in Dakota, and fulfilled it. Apparently, the outlet in Dakota will be closing shortly to convert into the second Op=Op, with the same floor to ceiling displays and parquet floors. Then one more outlet in Noord.

After opening three locations here, the chain is planning to also expand into Curaçao and Bonaire.

Handsome Managing Director Lennert van der Poel, thought about everything, free coffee, a shady tent, a second cashier station.

It was nice to see a successful retail store opening, with the register ringing!