Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue June 16 2015

Infrastructure Improvements Propel Aruba's 2015 Tourist Arrivals Climb

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | June 16, 2015

Infrastructure Improvements Propel Aruba's 2015 Tourist Arrivals Climb

Photo courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

In early 2015 at least, Aruba’s tourism stakeholders are succeeding in their aim to continue the country’s strong 2014 visitor growth. Aruba hosted 294,411 land-based visitor arrivals in the first three months of 2015, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data, a robust 20.2 percent increase over the same period in 2014.

The higher 2015 totals follow the country’s record 1.07 million visitors in 2014, which represented a 9.5 percent increase compared with 2013 according to Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) officials. The full-year 2014 increase far surpassed the 2.5 percent arrivals growth ATA officials had targeted.

Aruba’s previous record for land-based overnight visitors was 979,256 in 2013, followed by 903,934 in 2012. Aruba’s North American visitors increased by more than seven percent in the first quarter of 2015; Canadian visitors increased by 8.2 percent over the same period.

Aruba’s hotel sector also posted improved results in 2014. Average room occupancy increased by 1.7 percentage points, from 77.6 percent in 2013 to 79.3 percent last year. Average daily rate (ADR) increased 18 percent, while revenue per available room (RevPar ) increased by 20.6 percent, surpassing the nine percent increase ATA had targeted.

“Tourism objectives were surpassed on practically all fronts in 2014,” said ATA officials in a statement. “Sustainability as an integral part of the direction of tourism was emphasized.” In addition, ATA has finalized an tourism action plan designed to place “a greater emphasis on the development of the product Aruba,” said Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, ATA’s chief executive.

Yet not all of Aruba’s early 2015 visitor numbers have been positive. Cruise-ship arrivals in January and February of 2015 totaled 153,886 passengers, a steep 13.6 percent decline from the same period in 2014. Nevertheless, the country’s tourism stakeholders are wagering that a series of infrastructure improvements and initiatives, including a program to encourage cruise ship guests to return for longer, land-based visits, will generate long-term growth at sea as well as on land.

To that end Aruba has renovated and improved civic and tourist areas in downtown Oranjestad and across the island through its $350 million Bo Aruba initiative, said Asjoe-Croes. The project included the launch of a downtown tram system, and the completion of a seven-mile long, $21 million linear park stretching from the airport to the Palm Beach resort region.

“We will continue to focus on effectiveness and efficiency and on the direction necessary for the Aruba market and its development of the product,” Asjoe-Croes said.

The Aruba Airport Authority is also planning “multi-million dollar investments” in runway and terminal expansion at Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport to “accommodate increased passengers and help facilitate Aruba’s role as a hub in the coming years,” said officials.

Queen Beatrix Airport accommodated more than 2.5 million passengers in 2014, an increase of more than 10 percent over 2013. “Continued growth is predicted this year in the number of flights and passengers that pass through the terminal,” said officials.

That growth will include new flights from InselAir, which will launch two new weekly flights from its Aruba hub to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on July 1. InselAir, which serves 21 destinations, is the largest airline operating from Aruba.

Also, all-inclusive resort operator AMResorts has announced will launch Zoetry Isla Di Oro Aruba, a 126-room resort featuring overwater bungalow-style accommodations overlook a secluded inlet, in 2018.

“Aruba reached the one-millionth tourist mark in 2014 and saw a 3.7 percent increase in arrivals from U.S. travelers,” said Alex Zozaya, chief executive of AM Resorts parent Apple Leisure Group. “Now is the perfect time to enter the market and introduce our products and services to Aruba’s booming tourism industry.”

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