Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Fri March 04 2016

What’s The Secret To Aruba’s Tourism Success?

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | March 04, 2016

What’s The Secret To Aruba’s Tourism Success?

PHOTO: Aruba hosted 1.22 million overnight visitors in 2015. (Photo by Brian Major)

Aruba’s climb toward the summit of Caribbean visitor arrivals charts continued in 2015, said Aruba Tourism Authority (ATA) officials this week. Aruba hosted 1.22 million overnight visitors in 2015, a 14.3 percent increase over the country’s record 1.07 million visitors in 2014.

Aruba’s previous record for land-based overnight visitors was 979,256 in 2013, followed by 903,934 in 2012. Among the 28 countries tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, only the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas hosted more visitors than Aruba in 2015.

The country’s recent tourism surge has been driven by increased arrivals from the U.S., the country’s largest market. That trend continued in 2015 as the country’s U.S. arrivals increased 7.7 percent year-over-year.

Aruba’s strong growth comes amidst a wave of good fortune for Caribbean destinations. CTO recently reported arrivals among its membership increased by an average of seven percent in 2015. Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, ATA’s chief executive noted that “most Caribbean islands saw a 3 to 10 percent increase in annual stay-over arrivals from 2014 to 2015,” a pace Aruba has exceeded.

READ MORE: Infrastructure Improvements Propel Aruba's 2015 Tourist Arrivals Climb

Aruba’s hotel sector reported a successful 2015, including an 8.3 percent increase in total visitor nights, a 2.7 percent increase in average daily rate to $237.39 and a 1 percent increase in revenue per available room to $185.20, said ATA officials.

Aruba visitors also spent more in 2015, with year-over-year quarterly increases of 7.2 percent, 3.1 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, in the first three quarters of 2015.

Asjoe-Croes called 2015 “a monumental year for Aruba, not only in tourism performance but also in innovation and creativity.”

She cited “airport and island-wide hotel and product renovations” with driving arrivals growth. Late last year ATA and Aruba Immigration Services (IASA) launched an online embarkation and disembarkation card (“ED-card”) option through which travelers can go fill out the digital ED-card on ATA’s dedicated website immediately after booking flights to Aruba.

READ MORE: Your Next Trip to Aruba Just Got an Electronic Immigration Upgrade

The electronic system retains travelers’ basic information, so vacationers returning to Aruba can simply update their digital ED-cards with new travel dates and trip details.

The time-saving ED-card option is the latest initiative to save travelers time at Queen Beatrix International Airport. The airport last year introduced biometric automated border control “e-gates” at its arrivals and departures areas as part of ATA’s “Happy Flow” program, designed to streamline and expedite passengers’ airport transit.

Since implementation, “Happy Flow” has processed more than 130,000 passengers from 33 countries via “sophisticated technical arsenal including biometric authentication,” said ATA officials. Additional e-gate devices will be deployed in 2016.

Last year’s ATA initiatives also included the launch of a “content-rich” planning “Happiness Builder” tool on the Aruba website. The tool includes more than 100 videos featuring adventure, relaxation, romance and cultural activities in Aruba.  

Consumers can also use the tool to create a personal “Shortcut to Happiness” video itinerary crafted from six selected clips, with the addition of happy music and a personalized message which can then be shared with friends and loved ones via email and social media.

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