ATSA, MEP & Raiz in conversation

We’re getting a new government

I have to say I am impressed. During the past week or so, new coalition partners MEP & RAIZ have met with dozens of stakeholders, from social security to the hospital, the psychiatric foundation, the house doctors, the hotel association, the trade association, commerce and business leaders, the chamber of commerce, the airport, even the dental association, to get a feel of what hurts and what they want cured.

Meetings went on with Setar, Serlimar, Arikok Park, all labor unions, Aruba Birdlife Conservation, and even our National Climate Resilience Council, which I did not know we have, nevertheless, I am pleased we do.

Each meeting was followed by a press conference and mutually agreed upon comments.

ATSA, the Aruba Timeshare Association was among organizations invited to share its aches and pains with our future top decision-makers.

They handed in a letter of great interest, and laid out their wish-list for the next four years.

You must know that Vacation Ownership in Aruba plays an important role with nearly 40%   of our total hotel room inventory consisting of timeshare units. Vacation ownership has been during, and especially after the pandemic, the backbone of Aruba’s tourism industry.  Throughout, vacation ownership here is resilient and boasts the largest market-share growth in both 2020 and 2021.

The pandemic is not the first crisis endured by the island. This is the third time that Aruba has seen a decline in tourism, yet its vacation ownership remained strong, with a consistently high level of room occupancy and economic activity; Aruba has also seen that timeshare members have a long-term commitment to the island, which is the envy of many Caribbean competitors.

The Aruba Time Share Association (ATSA) does not only positively contribute to the Aruban Economy, but it is also dedicated to its workforce, many timeshare properties include yearly cost-of-living wage increases and a majority of properties maintained their employees and protected their salaries during the pandemic.

As the voice of Aruba’s Vacation Ownership industry, ATSA has compiled Key Priorities for the continued recovery and sustainability of tourism here, in support of the local economy.  Some priorities have remained priorities for the past 4 years.

Labor Laws: ATSA submitted a list of most important Labor Law tweaks and adaptations, dealing with a variety of urgent labor issues, from Working Permits, to Retirement Age.

Bubali Plas: The Sewage Water Treatment plant @Bubali, is a major concern to the association, it is in a dire state of disrepair and must be urgently addressed, without over-dramatization, it is an imminent threat to tourism.

Beaches & Beach Policy: ATSA expressed its deep concern over the non-sustainable use of Eagle Beach & Palm Beach, from motorized watersports, to suntan lotion. The importance of the beaches cannot be overlooked. The association called for more responsible watersport and ATV operations by more responsible and conscientious operators, and warned of the decline of the beaches.

Education: ATSA reiterated its great interest in education and in keeping the supply and demand of the labor force is in balance. Young people must be educated to take their place in the workforce and fill available jobs on the island. The existing workforce needs training, and relevant skills in order to be more productive, work smarter, not harder. ATSA supports innovations, so that Aruba remains a destination of choice, served by highly-qualified workers.

Finance: ATSA wishes to make Aruba more affordable, by bringing down the cost of doing business here. ATSA would like to see a leaner, more sustainable, and waste-free GOA. The reduction of red tape, a comprehensive tax reform, and a more efficient tax collection across the board, are crucial.

Overdevelopment: Affluent timeshare owners are moving away from the island, ATSA warned, due to overdevelopment, they see the island as their Home Away from Home, but notice it becoming overbuilt and overdeveloped. ATSA promotes a quality experience over the quantity of visitors. Due to overdevelopment, ATSA has seen timeshare owners’ annual household income drop from $150K to $125K, over the past seven years.

Security: ATSA considers the fight against petty-theft and drug peddling on the beaches and around the resorts a great priority, and wishes to see more Police presence on beaches and in tourist areas.

Environment & Recycling:  ATSA wishes to see great focus on laws to protect the environment and the island’s natural resources, and wishes to introduce the environmental levy to cruise tourism. Their impact on the environment can no longer be ignored, and they should be made to contribute their fair share. Timeshare owners are interested in more recycling; they also want more protection for NATURE, that attracted them to the island, in the first place.

ATSA took the liberty to summarize what it considers the current and ongoing Key Priorities of business, environment, and tourism, and stands prepared to assist the new cabinet, get involved on any platform, happy to provide feedback, and participate meaningfully, in the spirit of private and public sector collaboration.

ATSA, thanked the members of the new coalition for the opportunity to share, and hopes for the full adoption of its agenda points, in the upcoming 4 years.

 

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July 21, 2021
Rona Coster