Episode CCXXVIII – 228: Rethink Tourism

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It is time to rethink tourism. The phrase “no more hotels” represents the critical reality that our island experiences. The discontent and sadness of the local population are a direct and critical response to irresponsible political management and a crisis of representation that traps Aruba in a vicious triangle where foreign investors and cheap foreign labor impoverish and outrage the existence of the local population. Here are the three sides of a probably unstoppable triangle.

We are living in a moment where the majority of our tourism-exploiting industries solely concentrate on increasing their corporate revenues with no real concern regarding any negative consequences that may result from their practices that harm the ecosystem, demographics, and attitude of our population. The negative impact is growing out of proportion, reflecting great discontent among locals expressed through active protest and passive vandalism. Social problems like emerging poverty, delinquency, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy, and dropouts are just a few iceberg tips that destroy dignity. These are global problems that we share, generated by happy-go-lucky, lack of vision political leaders and multinational lobbyists with no concern for island progress. Now “vandalism” ironically gives a voice to the desperate cry of our citizens through a turtle monument that begs awareness for NO MORE HOTELS, an outcry that can be erased with some paint but does not change a regrettable reality that many islanders feel by justifying the unjustifiable through a vandalic expression.

Our beautiful island, in addition to stretching its carrying capacity with overflow trash, negatively compromising our environmental resources, limiting the recovery of our endangered native species, and changing the natural landscape, also generates discomfort and rejection among long-time visitors’ residents when faced with this fact. The construction of buildings on the beachfront continues, destroying the coast line and damaging the once fantastic view of the Aruban sunset.

Today’s phenomenon is the transformation of residential areas into new RB&B facilities, with all consequences. Where there is partying all night, noise contamination, overflow garbage bins, septic tanks, etc. This practice continues despite the opposition of residents who are confronted with these kinds of problems, which shows the growing concerns of different interests and disparate property owners.

Rulers who do nothing to defend the small territory, despite saying that they do, and who continue to prioritize quantity over quality Caravans of cars that advance with difficulty and slowly everywhere indicate an “obvious” way that the island lives off tourism, but massively and with locals without resources. Not only does it not make sense, but it is true vandalism towards its resources and its population.

A large part of the population thinks that the current model has reached its breaking limit and should not be expanded further, should incline towards the quality, uniqueness, and security of our tourism industry, and that the existing method must drastically be reduced.

However, a few locals are filling their own pockets, and others with no connection to the land at all fervently defend the idea that the more tourists and hotels, the better it will be for everyone. Now to add insult to injury, a passivity of a government that only focuses on the flip side of the coin, who are managing Aruba like it belongs only to them and the foreign investors they cater to with no sensitivity towards the island.

The possible solution to this growing problem seems to be simple: not giving new permits to build, retracting given permits, and deconstructing unfinished projects. Giving the land a chance to regenerate. However, it is not so easily done. A long-term plan should be implemented to achieve many related objectives with sustainable purposes that require a greater degree of sensitivity. Meanwhile, various associations have been working to stop urban speculation and have been warning for decades that its consequences are becoming more evident every day.

The beaches, full of hotels, make coexistence a challenge for both locals and visitors. Bathing in Malmok-Tres Trapi- Boca Catalina or Arashi becomes a battle to find a place without boats that sometimes do not respect the rules or exceed the space (sometimes delimited), becoming a potential danger for bathers.

Aruba’s natural heritage is being degraded day by day. Its marine flora and fauna are affected by vessels that anchor without control. We found turtles with shells smashed by the boat’s engines. Aruba needs to rethink tourism because a tourist girl was destroyed by a boat engine, another little girl lost her leg in an ATV accident, and another visitor also lost a leg after being injured in contaminated waters. And the government continues to be insensitive!

Discontent among the local population grows day by day, but vandalism is to write NO MORE HOTELS; a cry erased with paint does not change a regrettable reality.

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