THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY. Music from the movie, please: tralalalala, la-la-la. The drama unfolding on Palm Beach regarding the upcoming sale of the Grande Dame, reads like an Italian Spaghetti Western script. The Good wants to save the little frontier town, keep everyone employed and drive the menacing raiders out. The Bad wants to turn the town into an oil field, get rich by digging wells, exploit the purchased land to the max, and to hell with the locals. The Mayor is secretly hoping to get his hands on more money, but is embarrassed to admit it, because he knows the Bad is unpopular with the town’s people, so he is posturing, being upset with him. Then in order to appease the Good he also acts appalled, because after all, as the Mayor of the town, keeping his job is his top priority. In the movies the Good always wins, miraculously, but in reality, the Bad, deep-pocketed opportunist always rises to the top. Aruba is blessed by a free market economy, and anyone has the right to sell anything, at his convenience, to the highest bidder. And it is absolutely true that no one is overly concerned with what’s good for island in overview. The all-inclusive beast might be hugely unpopular with taxi drivers and restaurant owners, but it’s what mass-tourism wants, the ability to gorge on vacation, drink and eat unbounded and unrestrained. While it’s a blow to Aruba’s upscale wannabe image, we have known for a long time that the Riu giant lusted after the neighboring Radisson property. The Westin came up first, now pac-man is getting ready to gobble-gobble one more. In general, the Riu brand dominates beachfront landscapes in many Caribbean locations . They bring plenty of new tourists on their own airline, and as long as they pay their taxes, Aruba will be fine with 23% all-inclusive tourist accommodations island wide, or from another perspective with 40% of the EP hotels, offered as all-inclusive tourist accommodations.
INCOMING MAIL. I got great mail from a Bati Bleki reader, it goes the following: Last night I struggled to get to sleep so I thought it was a good opportunity to catch up on some Bati Bleki reading, in fact about two months’ worth is what I got through before my eyelids felt heavy enough to put down my iPad. Good to see you’re still going after some of the institutions that take our money and don’t reciprocate equitably….tax dept & WEB to mention a few. Hot button issues like new beach policy was not spared – nice. Got another story for you which you may liberally edit. I am asking how did the Minister of Tourism and the Aruba Tourism Authority underestimate the cruise ship passenger count, to a great extent. They got the numbers all wrong. Earlier in the year, we read in the newspapers that cruise tourism in 2015, was going to be equal to 2014. According to APA, the Aruba Port Authority, cruise passenger numbers are down for the first four months of this year, which is the height of the cruise season here. The numbers are down by a whopping 17%. That’s sizeable. If you’re running a business which relies on intel from these venerated sources, and if you plan accordingly, and the numbers tank, then what? Can we send ATA the bill? Anyway, when the party on the opposite end of the political spectrum questioned the optimism, the ministry finally admitted a lesser, 7% downturn, at yearend. Many of the horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, and touring businesses, join the merchant community in asking how we are going to make up a 10% spread for the remaining months, in the low cruise season. And, at what point should the authorities put the spin aside and just tell the truth! We’re all adults, says my reader, and we have been in this business long enough to know that dips in the market can, and do, happen. It’s been a part of our tourism scenario for more than three decades. Of course you don’t have a crystal ball, but if you see a trend, don’t keep it to yourself, even if unpopular, because shared bad news are half the burden! Thank you dear reader for your excellent contribution to this column, which I hardly had to edit. You are a great writer, but don’t give up your day job as yet, because it doesn’t pay to be a journalist!
LOOKING FOR SOME F&B TALENT FOR BONAIRE. My girlfriend Arlene Nagtegaal was moved to write to me this week, and ask for Aruba’s help. Apparently, there is a beautiful Italian restaurant on Bonaire, a very modern and tastefully decorated establishment by the name of Sonia’s Home. But the owner, Arlene thinks, needs help to run it and make it a success, because her food is good, yet an effective restaurant and service manager is hard to find. Is there anyone you know on Aruba that would personally like a laid back lifestyle in Bonaire, and professionally strive to make this place a success, she asks? Sonia, an Italian, is waiting for the right person to come along. I looked at the website, it’s gorgeous.
VILLA ROYALE HOSTS A PARTY. The hilltop villa in the Kamay Hills, with the magnificent million dollar view over the island, hosted a party this weekend to introduced itself to local party-goers. Mirla Passchier put the event together for owner representative Rene Van Norel, in collaboration with Romar Trading and its star bartender Erick Bustamante, and White Modern Cuisine, chef Urvin Croes and his crew of talented young cooks. As you can imagine, this was a formula for success with a great guest list, delicious cocktails and designer finger foods. The villa is astounding. If you have $10.000 lying around, you may invite me for a five-day weekend, that’s the minimum rental period at $2,000 a day. The place boasts 8 bedrooms, and a giant dining room seating two-dozen people for dinner. Gina Heyliger required steel nerves and some alcohol to raise a couple of show Arucars from the garage level to the villa entrance with a fork lift, suspended over the glass partition and the outdoor lamp. How she gets them down again, says Mirla, I don’t care, I will not stick around for that stressful exercise.
POOP STORIES. A friendly restaurant chef reported the following. His boss asked him to make sure his new food handlers get a clean bill of health from the relevant government department. Last Monday, at 9am, he showed up at their headquarters in town and after a thirty minute wait was told to leave, because it was getting late. Come back tomorrow anytime from 7.45am to 12noon, he was told. Being a pragmatic Dutchman he asked around, and was instructed to show up early, so by 6.30am, the next morning, he was there, waiting in line with 50 other people ahead. As soon as they opened the door, he found himself #98 because many other food-handling candidates were saving space for their colleagues. After waiting for two and a half hours, at 9am, he was again told to come back the following day. In order to clarify, he introduced himself to #1 in line who arrived at the Health Department at 9.30pm, the night before, while #44 confessed she arrived at 2.30am in the morning. She was originally #21 but after being threatened by people who saved space for colleagues, she let it go, seeing that her husband got slapped on his face in the wake of the same argument, previously, when he was in line with his green card application. The Health Department handles about 60 applicants a day, so my calculator shows 60x5x 52 = 15,600 people per year, providing they indeed work every day at full speed. So here’s catch #22, you cannot handle food unless you have a card, yet the acquisition of one requires superpowers. And all they want is to poop quietly in a cup and leave. Really, is that too much to ask?? PS. I remember last year, they ran out of the cards, and were unable to issue any. [email protected]