Spotlight on Aruba: 3 Reasons to Plan a Trip Right Now
Known for its friendly people, divi divi trees, and warm, dry climate outside the hurricane belt, Aruba measures just 6 miles across and less than 20 miles long. Small, but a mighty force in Caribbean tourism, the tiny former Dutch colony welcomes nearly 1.7 million visitors a year—well over half of them Americans—and counts on tourism for three-fourths of its GNP. Repeat visitors number as high as 70 percent, according to the tourism association.
With its predictably sunny weather, abundant meeting sites, and devotion to visitors, Aruba has long been a sure bet for conferences and incentive rewards in the Caribbean. So why plan a trip to Aruba right now? Here are three timely reasons.
- Improved airport, more flights. This year’s expansion and beautification of Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport continues to build on $55 million worth of additions and renovations completed in 2012 and 2013. U.S. passengers particularly value the U.S. preclearance facility that allows them to bypass the gauntlet of customs and immigration lines that otherwise would greet them at home.
Plus, as of July 1, the airport welcomed Southwest Airlines to its family. Southwest, which previously offered only U.S. domestic flights, added four more flights with a capacity of 638 extra seats arriving daily from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and weekly from Orlando International (MCO). Altogether, Aruba receives flights from 14 North American gateways.
- New activities and attractions. While some visitors require only a beach, others appreciate something new, thrilling, or one-of-a-kind.
- The only streetcar service in the Caribbean started last year in Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad. Free to passengers, the single- and double-decker streetcars run on batteries backed by hydrogen fuel cells, which take their power from the island’s year-round trade winds. Arubans claim to be the first in the world to use hydrail technology in public passenger service. The cars make six stops along the main thoroughfare’s newly renovated retail district.
- Part Jetsons, part Aquaman, a new offering from water-sports operator Red Sail Sports Aruba lets users walk on water, hover inches above, or soar 30 feet over the sea. Called JetLev, the experience involves a 225-horsepower, water-propelled jetpack strapped to the pilot’s back plus a flight assistant on a WaveRunner to ensure a safe and uninterrupted trip.
- Eddy Croes, a lifelong resident and former lead ranger at Arikok National Park, now guides tours through the cunucu, or Aruban outback, by day and under the moonlight. His company, Aruba Nature Sensitive Tours, takes groups by monster jeep or on foot through a magical land of rock formations, cacti, rare tropical birds, turtle nesting sites, abandoned gold mines, and caves filled with ancient paintings.
- New and renewed options for meetings and incentives. Several Palm Beach resorts rank as the current frontrunners in Aruba’s never-ending game of hotel one-upmanship.
- Aruba got its very own Ritz-Carlton toward the end of last November. Built at a cost of $150 million, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba features 320 guest rooms, the island’s largest spa, a 15,000-square-foot casino, four restaurants, and 10,000 square feet of meeting space—all equipped with the very latest technology and full range of Ritz-Carlton amenities and services.
- Another prime candidate for meetings, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, entered 2014 with a $1.5 million revamp to its Grand Ballroom. Virtually new from top to bottom, the 8,435-square-foot ballroom holds up to 800 people in its largest The revamp came on the heels of a $50 million, four-year makeover of the whole property. Marriott’s multiphase project swept through the lobby, restaurants, and 411 accommodations and added an executive-level Tradewinds Club and beachside H2Oasis pool, both reserved for adult guests alone.
- The powers that be behind Hard Rock Hotels play their cards close to the chest. But they do say the new Aruba Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will rise from the ruins of the formerly beloved but now abandoned Bushiri Beach Resort sometime in the second quarter of 2015. They promise seven stories, 310 guest rooms, and loads of entertainment.
- Meanwhile, Riu Hotels & Resorts bought the Westin Aruba Resort & Casino—and closed it on February 27 for a $60 million renovation and rebranding. Expected to reopen late this year or early in 2015, the high-rise property will reign as the adults-only, 482-room Hotel Riu Palace Antillas, an all-inclusive sister resort for the adjacent family-friendly all-inclusive, Hotel Riu Palace Aruba.
For more information, go to www.arubaconventionbureau.com, or call the bureau’s convention services manager, Jerusha Rasmijn, at 297.582.3777, ext. 243.