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Aruba Tourism CEO Discusses Island's Strong Recovery

23 Sep 2022 By travelpulse

Aruba Tourism CEO Discusses Island's Strong Recovery

It should be no surprise that Aruba is poised to have a better year by important measures in 2022 than it did in 2019.

According to Ronella Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the island did not stand still early in the pandemic, opening to the U.S. market in July of 2020 as one of the earliest countries to do so.

In addition, said Croes, the Caribbean destination took the time during the crisis to revisit its strategy - adjusting and enhancing its overall tactics and even changing its creative and media buy agency to take a fresh approach.

The results have been dramatic with tourism receipts projected at a 12% increase in 2022 against 2019. In addition, visitors are spending more during their vacations. As for hotels, the projection is that revenue per available room will reach 93% of 2019 levels this year and get to 100% next year.

More good news for Aruba is that, unlike other warm weather destinations, it does not have big swings in seasonality. Businesses do not close and, aside from some limited discounting, prices are fairly stable year-round. The reasons revolve around Aruba's long-time core appeals, according to Croes: a feeling of safety for visitors, world-class beaches; the island's people and the level of service they provide; and the quality of the product - hotels, infrastructure, facilities, etc. These attributes, said Croes, mean that Aruba enjoys an unusually large percentage of repeat visitors.

And a key advantage for the island, said Croes, is the power of the brand. Aruba has been active in the US market for many years, she said, and over time, has had to reinvent its strategy continuously - spending a lot of time to insure that brand positioning remains strong. That experience - as well as the strong word of mouth - delivered visitors in ever-growing numbers.

The island's latest campaign is called the Aruba Effect - a feeling of joy and happiness that is not only enjoyed while vacationers are on the island - but persists when they return home and is even spread to friends and family. As with everything else Aruba's tourism officials do, said Croes, this campaign is based on data analytics, including research among consumers and locals. "It's part of a general emphasis on wellbeing that we are messaging," she said.

And, said Croes, the island continues to enhance its product. An Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort is opening in January across from Eagle beach, one of the island's famous beaches. It will offer 330 spacious upscale suites - very desirable for families and others who might prefer a larger unit. In addition, a five-star St. Regis will open with 220 rooms on another well-known beach Palm Beach, "hopefully" in 2024. And in the developing San Nicholas area of the island, the Secrets Baby Beach will open in 2023 with 600 rooms as an adults-only resort.

San Nicholas, said Croes, is an area that the government has been investing in to become a cultural hub with many murals and such events as the Aruba Art Fair. In addition, a beach tennis court is opening in the Baby Beach area as that sport becomes more popular.

Currently, said Croes, tourism authorities are focusing on two things:

- Wellness, including a major project to set up 30 miles of mountain bike trails in a rugged area on the north side of the island

- Creating Aruba Signature Experiences where the tourism authority selects the top options from those brought by local entrepreneurs and assists them in delivering those experiences to visitors.

Finally, said Croes, weddings continue to be a top-ranked reason to choose the island.

With all that to offer, said Croes, Aruba will continue to prioritize travel advisors, including sponsorships of industry events and a team of dedicated sales managers across the U.S. working with that market as well as with tour operators. Working with the trade, she said, "will continue to be an integral part of our approach."

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