Yesterday, Aruba celebrated World Tourism Day at the Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, where various leaders, stakeholders and international experts in the tourism sector held a meeting on the theme selected for this year, “Rethinking Tourism”.
Minister of Tourism and Health, Mr. Dangui Oduber was in attendance. He pointed out that yesterday was a special day for Aruba, a moment to reflect on the importance of tourism for the daily life, economy, culture, public finances, progress and wellness of Aruba.
For this reason, every year the ministry of Tourism together with Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) celebrates this day with the chosen theme. This year’s theme selected by the United Nations World Tourism Organization is “Rethinking Tourism”.
After the pandemic of Covid-19, everyone had to think on how to reinvent tourism and the strategies that will be needed to recover the tourism industry, which suffered greatly during 2020 and 2021 because of restrictions related to the pandemic.
Today, after more than two years, minister Oduber assures that they are very satisfied with how tourism has recovered in Aruba, and they project that in 2022, Aruba will recover 100% of tourism, despite the fact that last January and February opened very slowly because of the Omicron variant. However, Aruba recovered very quickly and currently is the second country in the world with the best tourism recovery compared to the year 2019.
“For this reason we thank our partners today, but we also want to thank each person working in the tourism industry because they are our greatest asset as a country, because they deal with our guests every day”, he said.
Also in attendance were students from the Hospitality and Tourism unit of EPI (Intermediate Professional Education) and the Faculty of Tourism at the University of Aruba, who participated in various discussion sessions with experts in tourism, where they shared their experiences about rethinking tourism. But for Oduber, as he mentioned, it is important to have a sustainable development, that takes flora and fauna and the environment into consideration, and to guarantee that in the short term there are jobs for the local population and the professionals currently studying at EPI and the University of Aruba, so they can have a career in the industry.
This week there are different presentations and conferences taking place with a diverse group of experts from Aruba and abroad. There are different people coming from Europe to attend the Aruba Meets Europe Conference. Minister Oduber commented that all tour operators have an important task to help market Aruba in Europe to attract tourists from that continent. At this conference there will be the opportunity to exchange ideas and to learn from the vision and strategy of other countries.
Ronella Croes, CEO of ATA, expressed that she feels satisfied and that this is a moment to reflect on the pandemic of the last couple of years and what was achieved, “because that fills you with a lot of pride. Mainly on this occasion, ATA puts everything on a timeline and all those achievements make you look back on everything that was done”, Croes commented.
The day began with a reflection, dedicating time to two icons who laid the foundation for tourism in Aruba, namely Juancho Irausquin, and also ATA. They spoke about the future and what awaits, where Croes highlighted the European partners who were present at the Aruba Meets Europe Conference.
There was also a symposium called Cruise Symposium Aruba 2022, which is an annual program, and also took place yesterday with the goal of working together on the quality of existing product and services and those which can still be offered to our visitors.
Tisa LaSorte, CEO of Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association (AHATA) was also present at this conference, and she explained that a lot of emphasis is put on the theme of Rethinking Tourism, in order to remind everyone that it is important to ensure that the success of tourism has positive effects for the entire country. This means that it must have positive effects on people, that it protects nature, and that the industry itself is sustainable.
“The word sustainability means different things. It is sustainable in the sense that it has a positive future, but it is also sustainable in the sense that we protect our country and protect our nature. That is the emphasis of this day”, La Sorte expressed.
She also said that Aruba has shown during and after the pandemic that we are a very resilient island in tourism. “We have a very strong product, people want to come to Aruba and that helps us. Of course this stays in our economy, and it is important for people to realize that it’s not only the client working in tourism who benefits from tourism. Everyone in Aruba, and other companies that exist, are the reason why we have a strong economy which is productive and creates more jobs. This is why tourism remains important”, she said.
Regarding challenges that we are currently facing, LaSorte highlighted that it is important to ensure that the product remains fresh and new, because now that the pandemic is behind us, it means that other countries are also open again, not only Aruba. This means that there is more competition, and we need to ensure that there are incentives to provide a high quality product and a high quality service.