Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap December 23rd, 2018

Now What?

Other than Fashion Week, we also talked about the temper tantrum thrown by my venerated friend, member of parliament Ricardo Croes, during a public budget meeting last week, which unfortunately delayed the ratification of all ministerial budgets.

Now what?

You stormed out and slammed the door.

What do we do now?

Besides, what are we talking about?

Medicinal cannabis?

Recreational cannabis?

Are BOTH all of a sudden clumped together?

According to my understanding the idea was to introduce medical marijuana, step by step, AZV supports the idea, and then maybe over time, reach an understanding with other members of parliament, such as Hendrik Tevreden, an understanding negotiated behind closed doors, not in a public forum.

Don’t you have private meetings, before public meetings, motivated by the desire to iron differences out and avoid public embarrassment?

Hendrik Tevreden is not wrong. His personal life experienced, as an addiction councilor, showed him the ravaging effects of the disease, and he is ringing the alarm, not to take the issue of recreational marijuana lightly, and just usher it in under pressure, because a coalition partner threw a temper tantrum.

On the other hand, a coalition partner is entitled to a certain degree of outrage if an election promise is broken.

But come on, grow up, an election promise is a suggestion, it is never etched in stone.

Harbour House Aruba and the revival of Waf Chiquito

The former Mar Azul Condominiums and the Mar Azul Marina Mall, the massive abandoned development on Weststraat, recently found redemption, under its new name, Harbour House Apartments, and the Harbor Stores.

The complex has also undergone a clever repositioning. Instead of facing Weststraat, as its main mall entrance, the new layout calls for major shopping and dining on the ocean side, with a spacious promenade, as an extension of the Green Corridor, showcasing the beauty of the Oranjestad harbor.

Developer Albert Perret Gentil, Blue & Azul Condominiums, credits his brother with the brilliant idea to place the parking garage under the building and elevate the infinity pool, a la Renaissance in Curacao, for a more functional and dramatic use of the space.        

I know I wrote about this project before, I attended some shop openings in the past decades, Gilbert Senchi even operated an art gallery downstairs, friends almost bought condos there; I also lamented some unfortunate closings – especially that of a stylish Italian restaurant, what was its name?

With the project fully facing the water, seven harbor shops will be available for rent to reputable and experienced high-end F&B or retail experts. While Perret-Gentil believes it will take a while to find synergy he is confident that Weststaat, once a swinging neighborhood, will find a successful formula, perhaps a la WynWood, Miami, and he relies on the owners of neighboring real estate, APA, Eman, Harms, Mahtani, as well as Stichting Rancho, the fishermen, and the souvenir vendors of the Waf to come together for a comprehensive urban revival plan of the area.

Harbour House offers 96 units, from studios to 4-bedroom residences, up seven stories, on-site parking, 24-hours security, boat service to beach, top floor solarium with hot tub, food & beverage, a swanky lobby, a fitness center, and the rooftop with 360 degrees views of the island.

Best of all, you’re welcome to move in, in 2020.

Perret Gentil remarks that an eclectic group of architects, designers and engineers were required to transform the unfortunately bankrupt prime piece of downtown real estate, but it’s done. And we should be proud of the rescue plan, breathing new life into the once popular Waf Chiquito.  

His company, just opened the first AZUL tower, on Eagle beach, one of two, and is planning the further construction of some townhouses in the back, facing the green areas.

Remembering Lenny Theysen

This is what my friends at Magic 96.5FM told me: The year was 2001 and the radio hosted Duna Man pa Un Ruman, a program designed to help listeners of lesser means, around Christmas and the holidays.

The DJs were fundraising, and collecting gifts, in the station’s old location, on Caya Betico Croes.

One morning, one of the radio personalities showed up to work earlier than usual, he noticed the door open and as he prepared to enter Lenny Theysen slipped by him on her way out.

She uttered a four-letter word, and added she didn’t want to be caught.

Inside, in the foyer, there were boxes brimming with Christmas stockings, filled with candy, 100 in total, that Lenny attempted to secretly leave as an anonymous donation.

That radio personality told me last night, he kept her secret, he never told, he added that Kenro Jewelers was at the time one of the station’s biggest clients with Lenny as a lively, participatory force.

Lenny was a very generous, feisty, spontaneous, decisive, no -nonsense and life loving wife, mother, friend and businesswoman, and we fondly remember her this way.

Heartfelt condolences to Rodney, Kenny, Humphrey and the TMC team.


Tourism working for GOA

I read with great interest about the wish to investigate tourism funds, even saw a video clip.

As consumers of news, we are not fed a balanced diet. We only get to hear about the clients of 24Ora/Mas Noticia, so we don’t get the full spectrum, but anyway, I saw MP Setty Yarzagaray on the subject.

I thought to myself why would they want to investigate tourism funds, in fact an audit on the financial management of the former MinTour. He is now an important coalition member, let sleeping dogs lie, but apparently, they are digging.

I understand they are also investigating in the land department, especially land granted to commercial exploitation. I hear they are also trying to get to the bottom of how land in the lovely Seroe Colorado, ended up exclusively in the hands of friends and family members, but that’s another column.  

First of all, an historical overview, I know you forget: Before MEP came to power, it naturally had its eyes on ATA’s excessive funding. And if I were the MinPres, I would be eyeing that bonanza too.

Remember, ATA changed its structure to a semi private organization back in 2010. Its income at the time was around 50M. Almost 10 years later, that income has grown to around 100M.

Over 10 years it has become apparent that ATA, as an effective Destination Marketing Company, does not need a 100M budget.

So, the man in charge, the clever MinTour saw a golden opportunity to get better control of the cash by CHANGING ATA’s structure from a Destination Marketing Organization, DMO, to a DMMO, Destination Marketing & Management Organization.

The change allowed ATA to get into things like product enhancement, which under normal circumstances would be the job of DOW. It allowed ATA to get into product quality, which under normal circumstances would be the job of the private sector.

This meant that the MinTour, via ATA, could direct funds to so called projects like laying klinkers in Paradera, his power base, installing blue horses downtown, putting up signs and plaques, funding the beach police, and making himself look like a savior, just before the elections.

Somehow, this strategy did not work so well, the former MinTour fared poorly in the polls, but he did manage to secure the most prized ministry, Infrastructure and environment.

Back to ATA: ATA spends around 65M to 70M on destination marketing, its core responsibility and then around another 10M on product – projects which DOW should be undertaking.

Why? Because the money is available, and must be spent, otherwise other parties, will move in to claim and collect it.

Thus, the current MinPres instructed the current MinTour to divert at least 20M from ATA’s budget to GOA’s coffers.

Many in tourism agree.

ATA should remain a DMO, and requires no more than 65M to operate effectively.

GOA is in dire need of funding and although 20M is a drop in the bucket, every little bit helps.

My friends in tourism think that this investigation is a way for GOA to legitimately REDUCE ATA’s funding, and get its hands on the excess money without having a confrontation with anyone.

Let’s see where it ends up.



In a recent ATSA meeting, the Aruba Timeshare Association, General Manager Richard Roy reported to his colleagues that the company name “Tropicana Entertainment” was sold in October 2018 in the USA, and that the resort in Aruba was allowed to continue to use the name for six months, but has chosen to change to EAGLE ARUBA RESORT & CASINO early, in order to start the new year with a fresh name, logo and identity.

While the name changed, the ownership remained the same, and business, according to the GM, is pacing better for the spring of 2019 than spring 2018. Keep in mind that 2018 was a banner year, simply fantastic.

The most recent phase of construction of 100 rooms just wrapped up December 15th.  With the contractor on vacation until January 10th work will resume on the next block of rooms, when vacation is done. Ownership has invested 19 million dollars in renovations so far and the next phase will represent another 9 million, bringing the total investment up to 28 million.

Richard Roy reports that his guests consist of timeshare owners and transient travelers who love the resort’s Eagle Beach location, and the comfort of the spacious, full kitchen, vacation villas. If they don’t wish to cook, the Double Down Sports Bar & Grill at the casino offers all day dining and gaming and Uncle Tony’s pizza is a fun spot to grab a bite, on the pool deck.

“We want to assure our guests and our 250 employees that we will look after their interest, and deliver as always, excellence in hospitality, fun in gaming and consistent value,” he adds.  


Nature Magazine names ten People who mattered this year, among them Anthony Brown

Anthony Brown is a star mapper, an astronomer by profession, who coordinated the release of Gaia’s long-awaited Milky Way data.

He has been in charge of the work of scientists of the European Space Agency since 2012, and together they managed to publish a 551-gigabyte catalogue detailing the positions and movement of more than 1.3 BILLION stars.

As an astronomer at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, Anthony leads a Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, of group of 400 and more researchers who have been crunching numbers sent to Earth by the Gaia spacecraft, which launched in 2013, to scan the sky. The researchers boiled down that data into precise information on stellar positions, and motion.

Simply put, Brown’s job was to provide the calm and systematic leadership for the team of scientists preventing them from going bonkers. No bad for a boy from Aruba.

Yup. He came here at the age of two, went to elementary school and Colegio Arubano, then spread his wings, and armed with a PHD became a tenured member of the faculty in Leiden.

While Anthony is famous in scientific circles, his siblings Patrick, Maura and Barbra Brown are famous in Aruba as top professionals, the brainy kids of the late, and fondly-remembered attorney Roy Brown.

Roy had six children, all high achievers, 2 boys, 4 girls, and was always proud of their individual accomplishments.

Apparently, Anthony got a telescope as a gift from an uncle at the age of 12. And look what happened!

The takeaway: Pay close attention to what you get your kids this Christmas     


Aruba Fashion Week 2018

I understand that the first fashion show of #AFW18 kicked off successfully, and filled up three rows of seats on the waterfront.

You have to realize, the setting is spectacular, I love it, facing the downtown marina, on the boardwalk, and therefore, I feel, the effort is worthwhile.

However regrettably, the 3-day event requires monumental efforts and resources, and has not caught on fire, yet.  On the contrary, #AFW2018 enjoyed a lukewarm reception here, and I suspect it performed poorly at the box office.  

Indirectly, of course, it did us good. We get credit that as a tiny island we are capable of staging a fashion week, which puts us in the same Champagne bucket as Amsterdam or New York.

That first Friday night was well attended and the brands presented included Colombian PDHS, Pineapples Don’t Have Sleeves, Venezuelan made Pati’ya Swimwear, and Brazilian made Carmen Steffens designs, which were warmly received.

Then a group of totally unknown fashion designers from Aruba took over the runway: Mirzah Manga @chillymanga, Javan Croes, @javancroes, Azra Groenewegen, @amourazra, Mims Angel Ras, @mimzzlightyear and D’Andre Maxwell @auadancer, who dances and designs.

The aspiring designers were invited to show off some of their creations, and on the third night @mimzzlightyear was pronounced the winner, invited to present an entire collection in next #AFW19. That’s an incredible opportunity, and a good story. The judges said he had solid fashion ideas and a sustainable talent!

#AFW18’s second day, on Saturday night featured Colombian made Bahamamama fashions, the designs of Venezuelan born Andrea Grados, and Similares workout clothes, the popular Colombian Agua Bendita, and Morena Valley, from the USA, also mostly bathing suits. The evening was lackluster and sparsely attended.  

The event recovered some oomph on the third night, Sunday, with fashions by 32-year old Colombian-Venezuelan Daniella Battle; the 30-year design veteran Olga Bolaños, sexy and bold La Bella Mafia fashions with bikinis and fitness outfits, and the dazzling Dominican born Giannina Azar, who is a worldwide force in the Latin fashion industry, who crossed over. That by itself was worth the hassle, of going downtown and securing parking.

I sipped bubbly, I took pictures, I admired all 14 brands, 18 trunk shows, 18 runway queens, gorgeous models from Aruba, 12 international designers, the food court, sushi, entertainment and not so cold Proseco!

Congratulations to Angel Leon, the tireless organizer who has been taking about fashion week since the day I met him at least a decade ago, and thank you sponsors for providing us with top notch entertainment.


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December 23, 2018
Rona Coster