In honor of Playa Linda’s 35th anniversary, by Raymond Maduro
Playa Linda Beach Resort was conceived when we were at the pinnacle of our careers, and our Development Company at its peak performance.
All the constellations were perfectly aligned; we had just experienced the tremendous success of Aruba Beach Club in the timeshare market here and received great endorsement in the USA for being one of the first quality timeshare developments overseas, within this new interval ownership business.
Our team at the time included architect Dan Oduber, businessman Tito Muyale, operations man Rene Nieuwkerk and engineer Engelberto Ruiz. I was the leader of this great orchestra consisting of brilliant and motivated Aruban professionals.
We agreed to call the project Playa Linda Beach Resort, simply because of the beauty of the beach; we also intended to give the property a Spanish romantic slant. We’re all romantics, to this day.
In order to do the project right, we embarked on a fact-finding trip, aiming to see and experience some of the latest and most spectacular contemporary resorts being built. Those were the 1980’s. We visited Mexico; Cancun had just begun to develop. We looked at Disney resorts in the USA — they have done a lot of research too. We visited developing projects in Spain and Latin America.
We took the best ideas we picked up along the way, documented them, and returning to Aruba we put together a collage of inspirational thoughts, a la Pinterest, much before Pinterest was created, which formed the basis of our vision for what would become, in our mind, the most beautiful timeshare resort on this planet.
In Cancun, Mexico, we studied one of the first resorts built to reflect the Mayan temples; in the USA we were inspired by construction materials and best practices.
Apropos the design of Playa Linda Beach Resort, you clearly see that our chief architect, partner and brains behind the endeavor, Dan Oduber, was deeply influenced by the unique stepped pyramid structure resembling some Mexican resorts in Cancun.
He’s always been a romantic.
The design was also favored by the Dutch university and research group TNO, because of Aruba’s potential wind challenges. As you may remember, the Concorde hotel high rise, at the time, struggled with ongoing wind challenges on its beach and at the lobby entrance, which the design team was determined to avoid. They developed a wind tunnel test and recommended a tapered modular look.
But overall speaking Playa Linda Beach Resort presented the least obstacles. We did not confront any difficulty at conception, development, nor at construction, it all went relatively smooth, and steady.
It was however a period of great unrest on the island. The environment was brimming with interesting and at the same time, threatening events; Aruba’s 1986 Status Aparte became a reality and the years preceding were pretty tense and turbulent, politically and economically speaking.
It was an anxious time, peppered with potential disruptive elements, not conducive to stable tourism. The Lago refinery announced it was closing its doors mid-80s, and that many locals would be out of a job.
Despite all of this, we were determined to level-headedly deal with issues and threats and proceed to build what resulted in one of the world’s leading and most beautiful timeshare resorts on this planet – the Playa Linda Beach Resort, in Aruba.
Now you see it, now you don’t
The video camera recordings were there, then they disappeared, one moment they were there, but when we needed the evidence, it was gone.
Hocus Pocus. I laughed when I saw the venerated attorney explain the magic on camera.
What do you think? You think we’re stupid?
Anyway, the media reported a story about a sea container that was checked, and double checked, by customs, then sealed. It contained recycled junk and was heading out for export. It remained standing in a public location for two days, then following a tip it was hauled to the Marine base, where it was opened.
WOW, apparently, by osmosis, or somehow magically, drugs managed to get into the locked space, and not a small quantity, a respectable amount, hidden in some discarded metal parts, which no one remembered if they were there from the start.
I cannot make something like that up. Drugs never stuff themselves, on their own volition, into a sea container, someone must have assisted them.
Still the investigation team did not link the drugs to the suspect, in other words they made the arrest way too soon, it did not stick.
In cases like that you need to build a strong case before you air it, says a friend in the know.
He also called it a botched investigation and asked me not to blame the detectives. It might also be poor judgement on behalf of the prosecutor office.
Detectives work hand in hand with the prosecutor office, he explained, and human error is possible, but generally speaking detectives are experienced and serious about their job, so we have to remember that Customs Detectives did the initial check.
I almost forget that Customs also has an investigation unit with police authority, and according to reports the first inspection of the container was conducted by the customs detectives.
The following day, a scandalous headline: Some new members of Customs involved in criminal activity.
I am not suggesting anything, but there are no co-incidences, in life.
Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark (A quote from Shakespeare)
A lawyer friend sums it up:
I believe it is a botched investigation due to human error: They checked the container, found nothing and double sealed it with the seal of Customs, as well as the company’s seal. The container was delivered for shipment where it was intercepted, first at Barcadera harbor and later at the Marine Base where they went ahead and opened it. When opened they found certain parts containing a ton of drugs.
Now comes the kicker: The Customs guys that did the initial inspection can’t recall seeing these specific parts in the first place.
AND the Prosecutor could not hand over the video tapes made on the premises showing if someone entered the sealed container, or not.
PLUS, there was no report on whether the container was double sealed and intact, before they opened it since no one cared to inspect the seals.
Therefore, they can’t prove who placed the drugs in the container…Hocus Pocus.
What do you think? You think we’re stupid?
Of course, the case would have probably been stronger without the initial inspection, that so called ‘proved’ that there was nothing in the container, and this sudden amnesia that caused them all to forget the specific parts….
Epilogue: The man ended up being deported, he was on his third or fourth iron junk container headed to Belgium via the Netherlands with 350 kg of drugs.
Playa Linda Beach Resort Celebrates 35 Years, from another perspective
Monday afternoon, a cocktail party will commemorate the 35th anniversary of Playa Linda Beach Resort. Charles Croes was sales director at the time, and the way Charles tells it you can hear how fired up they were, how much fun they had and how successful they became, in conceiving, developing and selling the new timeshare units at the resort
Charles recalls walking potential buyers on the beach in yellow hard hats, there was no construction activity going on, but the hard hats conveyed the dynamic idea of development, and the promise of something spectacular, yet to come.
He was pointing up into the air admiring the virtual location of the units’ ocean front terraces, and it was not uncommon to hear at the end of this un-rehearsed presentation, ok, sign me up for ten weeks.
With time, inspired by the request of the Minister of Tourism, Charles wrote the OPC handbook. That year they received an award for the first-of-its-kind document, at a timeshare convention in the USA. Thirty-five years ago, the timeshare industry was in diapers, and Aruba was doing it right.
Our OPCs were fresh and enthusiastic, Charles reminisces, and while they did not quite understand what perpetuity meant, they used the word well. One day I asked the crew to explain the rescission period they were diligently promoting, and none of them really knew what it was, but, and here’s the big difference, they invited guests home, and made them try grandma’s stoba, and her pan bati, which became powerful sales tools.
Everything was real, says Charles, un-staged, we did not sell timeshare, we sold time in space, and a piece of ourselves and the clients bought into that genuine, authentic brand of hospitality, that was just-baked. We knew we had something good going, and it was irresistible.
Charles stayed at Playa Linda for nine years. The world was different then, he offers, money was no object, we were writing the rules as we went along, and developer Raymond Maduro made sure we delivered. He was an incredible task master, who lived up to every promise we made.
And our VP Legal Affair and Construction, Mito Martis, he came up with the side walk concept, in front of the resort, then the Holiday Inn wanted a sidewalk too, and while we were connection the properties, our sales tripled. Apparently, connectivity is a powerful sales tool.
Then sometimes down the line, we realized this was big business, that this was not to be taken lightly and some of the fun subsided. We lost some of our carefree, authentic luster, we became corporate, a bit less genuine, more politically correct.
I regret that. We should have protected what was ours more zealously.
About the Subject of +297
A gorgeous restaurant, one of the nicest, most complex in theme, and most stylish in design, just closed its door. +297 is no more. It was supposed to teach us how it’s done, and it did not. My column today will be its eulogy, three different voice, three difference perspective.
Rona, it takes seven years to get a permit for just about anything on the island, they did what they could to open. They were pushy, if you understand what I mean. They got the place up and running, don’t ask me how. Then they ran into difficulties keeping up with the promises they made to deliver a superior product. They couldn’t get work permits for imported qualified staffers.
Add to it that the economy in Aruba is in a rut, our buying power is diminishing by the minute, the spending Brazilians and Venezuelans are gone, the off season here just became longer.
To top it off, they were harassed by the tax department with some fantastic 8 million florins debt. Basically, things went down after the clash with the Police, over opening hours, they couldn’t get break, no one helped, sure they made some mistake, and were a tad arrogant but think about the investment and the jewel they created, we should have shown more gratitude.
It’s their own fault. They thought they could buy their way in and employ illegals.
Look at the hotels: They can wait months and months and months for permits. Patiently. It’s a terrible process, but they run that gauntlet, teeth clenched, and remain sustainable.
+297 did not want to run the gauntlet and bleed and did whatever it did to become untouchable.
Enter the new government, and they ran out of friends.
For dog’s sake, they called a minister’s wife for help when the Police arrived at 4am, long past closing time, resulting in a famous video recorded scuffle.
Really? You call the minister’s wife when you are in trouble with the law?
They thought they were better than everybody. They were arrogant. And the closing is not the fault of the tax office, it is the fault of those who did no pay their taxes like regular people.
We all pay, right?
So, they should have too! And on a timely basis.
Besides, the concept did not work, it was too expensive, to complicated, too hoity toity, and self-important.
Forty people lost their job? These can surely find a better paying job today, because +297 underpaid its workers.
The investment came from Venezuela, where robbing the country is a specialty and a regular way of doing business. So, we shouldn’t feel bad about the debacle. That particular MO works in Venezuela. It failed here. You may blame ‘cultural differences.’
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Rebranded as Grant Thornton in the Dutch Caribbean
Grant Thornton is an English cricket player.
But in Aruba, get used to that name, Grant Thornton means an assurance, tax advisory and accounting firm.
It is the world’s sixth largest professional services network, providing assurance, tax and advisory services to private and public businesses. The global organization is spread over 135 countries, with over 2,500 firm partners and 42,000 worker bees, all super educated and all aspiring to become partners in the firm.
On Wednesday the familiar PWC, morphed itself into a Grant Thornton, it looked easy, change of logo on the sign, but obviously it was a complex process, intense and crazy, but nicely accomplished by Edsel Lopez and his crew of sixty-five.
Why the switch, we asked.
PWC is a global giant, and as such compliance is a key word, you have to bring an Awg 10 Censo paper, every time you get off a chair, and a utility bill with your correct name and address every time you open the door. The bureaucracy is killing.
And in order to maintain that global credibility and global clients, the head of the firm had to spend most of his time in the office, complying with the censo papers and photocopies of his utility bill requests.
It robbed him of his joy of life.
He wanted to spend more time with local clients.
Tisa LaSorte, a guest at the gathering where a toast was raised in honor of the newly baptized offices of Grant Thornton Aruba, congratulated the team on its ability to reinvent themselves.
So that’s what happened. They found a way of doing what they are good at, differently, by making a decision to go local, and focus on Aruba.
They are today the largest Grand Thornton in the Caribbean, and definitely the best looking.
Congratulations to partners Hans Ruiter, Edsel Lopez and company, on being brave and visionary. They take their own medicine before giving it to clients.