By Joris Zantvoort
ORANJESTAD – Aruba is well known with anglers all over the world for its abundance of various game fish and good weather during the entire year. The Blue Marlin fishery is the finest around, meaning there’s always someone out near the east coast looking for Billfish. The inshore flats are also rewarding fishing grounds. The abundance of Barracuda, Tarpon, Jack Crevalle, Snook, and plenty of other fish is sure to keep even the most experienced angler busy.
Recent years have seen a sharp rise in the number of fishing trips in Aruba booked online. This comes as no surprise, as online services have made inroads into other marketplaces because of their sheer convenience. “The way people do business has changed,” notes Captain Glenn from Hatts Off Charters, and points out that “small operators like ourselves can’t survive without the internet.”
Booking a fishing trip was not so easy before the internet revolutionized the way we approach travel in general. If you were going to a different country on the other end of the planet, you had no choice but to visit the marina yourself and hope to find a good captain. It was both difficult and time consuming to find good info about Aruba if you’re in a small European country, for example.
These days, customers have unparalleled freedom when it comes to comparing options and getting the best value for their money. Captain Michael from Kristel Fishing Aruba has experienced that from the customer side as well. “In March, I’ll be going to Thailand. I’m already looking online to charter a boat there. It makes your life so much easier. One of the first things I will see are the reviews, and they can help me choose the right boat.”
Things have changed on the captains’ side too. They can now attract customers from around the globe without leaving their chair. Captain Glenn is quick to point out that “fifteen years ago, you’d have to sit on the pier and wait for customers who walk by to get a charter. 99% of our business is done through the internet nowadays.”
Charter captains from Aruba have risen to the occasion, and it certainly shows. According to data from FishingBooker, an online booking platform for fishing trips all around the world, the last three years have seen an increase of almost 270% in total earnings from online booking sites. The total number of fishing trips arranged online has achieved comparable growth, going from 176 in 2015, to as many as 647 in 2017.
Another noteworthy piece of data is about where the customers making these bookings come from. An astounding 95% hail from the USA, the biggest number of which are from New York City. Canada, The United Kingdom, Germany, and The Netherlands make up the rest of the top 5. Europeans definitely know about Aruba, and it’s safe to say they like it too. However, the fact that The Netherlands make up less than 1% of all trips booked online is surprising as Aruba remains a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The potential for growth is there however, and it remains to be seen whether Dutch anglers can be incited to visit in greater numbers. The captains are very optimistic about it. Online booking websites have definitely helped attract people who might not have even heard of these businesses otherwise. “We get people of all ages and from different countries. It’s been very good for us,” remarks Captain Michael.