Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, December 11th, 2016

#arubafashionweek, found happiness and fashion in Aruba

From a spectator point of view, I had a great time. As far as the island goes, the Aruba Fashion Week delivered prestige, an incremental value, it did not deliver any additional visitors, besides the designers, models, and organizers, and you can’t take prestige to the bank!

Thursday evening, on the beach at the Ritz Carlton, the Grand Opening featured a fashion show by Colombian-born, Miami-based Silvia Tcherassi. She is a big name now, and perhaps the footage from her excellent show, against the backdrop of the Ritz Carlton in Aruba will be viewed in her boutiques and hotels, overseas. The show was one hour and a half late, because organizers did not finish the set up on time. But never mind, it was a TEN. It was fantastic. The designer revealed that she got her start at Aquarius Boutique in Aruba in the 80s when the then-owner Martin Tauber recognized her talent and placed a large order, among her first! Martin Tauber happened to be in the audience and accepted her tribute graciously; he now lives in Florida, and only comes to visit his grandchildren here. It’s a small world, Aquarius Boutique was iconic in those days when the Bolivar exchange rate was four to the dollar, and we lustily bought Maude Frizon and Charles Jordan shoes for a fortune, at Aquarius.

Friday at the Renaissance Convention Center, the room had no traditional catwalk, it had a dance floor, and stadium seating, the bare minimum for the show, no branding, no frills, apparently low budget; the shows were late, but they were also great: Agua Bendita with an extensive collection, NMZ, with just one dress, shown a dozen times, and Eliza Lejuez. Her collection, We kiss the Joy as it Flies, made us proud, as she paraded more than one dozen looks made with her pure Japanese silk scarves, transformed into resort wear, her first collection of that kind. And she did it all herself, from scratch, including the fabric design and the sewing.

On Saturday Gigiola Gomez, with her Mystique Collection 2017, also made us proud, showing off feminine and elegant evening looks. She was listed on the program with Custo Barcelona, and other international fashion brands, which is no small feat.

I also visited the Trade Show and noticed that Gold Coast Residence had a spectacular booth. I hope they sold some condos and homes to some of the trade show exhibitors.

Thank you to the Gianni Group, a big sponsor of the event, along with the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Renaissance Resorts, the Ritz Carlton Aruba, and key spirits sponsor Pepia Est. Then instead of heading to Azia for the closing party most of the starved, emaciated models were lured to +297 for the after-party, which did not end well according to media reports. I imagine Gianni’s Group was not happy about the change of venue but was pleased that they were spared the incident with the Police.

The Aruba Fashion Week promoter Angel Leon, is the son of Angel Leonn Sr., Fondly remembered from the party days at the Wyndham / Westin, in the Alfonso Riverol era. Leon has been dreaming about the Aruba Fashion Week for years. He finally realized his dream, successfully as far as fashion, underwhelming as far as tourism results.

Will he get the Aruba Tourism Authority’s subsidy next year? Time will tell, but save the date anyway, December  1 – 4th, 2017.

We noted the absence of the former Aruba In Style team, local designer Ronchi de Cuba, Damilice Mansur, Eva Zissu, they were also successful at organizing quality fashion shows, a number of years ago, but ran into the same difficulty in identifying and attracting potential tourist markets to benefit the island hotels, and to justify the substantial investment.


Stop Moaning, Stop Bitching, help is on the way!

I saw in various media outlets that MinPres generated a promising headline, Dump Parkietenbos is Closing in 2017. The article quoted the MinPres in a meeting with the neighborhood, and you know that he is in full election campaign mode, and whatever he says, must be verified, first.

It turns out, the statement is almost truthful, and is more or less correct.

The dump will not be closing so fast, but the process that will eventually bring to its demise, will start in early 2017, when Serlimar begins delivering waste to EcoGas. The waste will be sorted, compressed and baled and then it will be stored, until the gasification plant is up and running in full capacity.

To get the gasification plant up and running at full capacity, is a HUGE private sector investment. All our government has to do, is sign the agreement to surrender the island’s waste for processing at EcoGas, instead of dumping and burning it, in the landfill.

That process of tipping fee negotiations has been accelerated recently. Auditors went through the numbers and it was determined that turning Waste to Gas is a CHEAPER undertaking, than the current vile, irresponsible practice.

If I understood correctly, as soon as that agreement is signed, EcoGas will expand its operation, spend the money, increase its production, thus ushering the island into full recycling within the next year.

While I am totally pleased with the progress on that subject, the opposition is moaning and some Serlimar employees are bitching. All I can say is the following: This is the best solution for the island’s shameful waste handling. A local company with a successful track record is undertaking the challenger for us. We should send them flowers, and pray for their success, instead of moaning about the fact that garbage processing MIGHT become source of income. For now, it’s only costing them money. If EcoTech/Ecogas can make money from my trash, God Bless Them!

Fun things to do with guests!

Are you entertaining friends and family members over the holidays?

I have four fun ideas for you, two today, two tomorrow….

Dinner at Fred’s: Friday night found me and a number of friends at Fred’s, on the second floor above Que Pasa. Fred was the partner at 2Fools & a Bull cooking studio on Palm Beach. He retired his foolish status in favor of vacation, at the end of which he went back to work, putting together a chef owned signature eatery, by the name of Fred’s. He built everything himself, including a complete kitchen and a large U shaped dining table. At the end of construction, he framed his stained and tattered work-shorts, and put on the apron. He’s been open for a few months, and he reports gaining popularity momentum. Our party enjoyed impeccable cuisine starting with a lovely trio of appetizers, Tuna Tataki, Seared Tuna and an off-the-chart, home-smoked salmon with a sweet mustard sauce. Nit normaalexcellent!! Then a light, delicious wonton soup, and Tournedos Rossini, a classic, created by some French master chefs in the late 18th, or early 19th century, serving pan-fried-in-butter filet mignon, topped with a generous slice of foie gas, swimming in a truffle and Madeira wine sauce. Words cannot describe this sinful creation. Tommie, the dining room front man complements the five-star cooking with five-star service.

A new family Day Trip, Experience San Nicolas: The experience includes a number of stops at the various Art Fair murals, a visit at Cosecha, the Museum of Industry, Espacio Azul and O’Neil’s Caribbean Kitchen, as an option. We went to Cosecha this week. It’s a lovely art gallery, in the middle of Main Street, San Nicolas.  Joanne Dirksz, the director told us that Cosecha will be hosting some Christmas Ornament workshops for kids in the upcoming days, and that the foundation will be pleased to host you and your guests for an art session, under the direction of beautiful, driftwood artist Maria Onni. The recently opened Industrial Museum is an interesting stop, located in the fully restored water tower. I met the Ana Maria Lombardi Perez of Espacio Azul at the Aruba Fashion Week tradeshow. She exhibited some Artesana Wayuu bags, also available in the San Nicolas gallery. Lunch at O’Neil, Caribbean Kitchen was tasty, they are closed on Monday but otherwise open every day from 11am to 8pm, offering local and Caribbean cuisine, good to the last bite. O’Neil was the chef at Jamaica Mi Krazy, and continues the soul food legacy on his own, at the former Promenade restaurant. The décor is the same, just as previous owner Peter Dorrer left it. But the food is authentic and totally reasonably priced. We had Curry Chicken Rotie, and Garlic Shrimp. The Rotie chicken was perfectly seasoned and the garlic shrimp were fresh! Nice attentive service, by helpful dining room staff. I will be back for the Caribbean Island Guava Roast Chicken!


More fun things to do with your guests….

Are you entertaining friends and family members over the holidays? I had four fun ideas for you, two yesterday, two today….

Walking Tours Oranjestad:  We recently went walking in Oranjestad, I took 6,500 steps, a distance of just under 4.5K, with Mark Benson, who started Aruba Walking Tours, having semi-retired his journalism career. [email protected]

We met at Cosecha, on Plaza Padu, and took off from there to visit the Bay of Horses, Paardenbaai. First stop, the blue horses next to the Parliament building. We then went on to visit the J.H.A. Eman bust, in front of the governor’s office. Mark gave us a short lesson in history; it was the first time I actually took my eyes off the pavement, to look at the bust, and appreciate the continuous political activism of the Emans.

We continued to Wilhelmina Park, visited the statue of Ann Frank and Nos Reina Stima, right next to her on the square. Mark told some stories along the way, and joked we were walking on water, on terrain reclaimed from the ocean. We paid homage to the 18th of March monument across the park, and continued to Fort Zoutman, peeked into the courtyard, kitchen and holding cells, then climbed 8 flights of stairs to the top of the clock tower for a 360 degrees spectacular panorama.

From the Willem III tower we went to Wilhelminastraat and listened to some more stories about Hotel Colombia and the City Hall complex. We liked the Eloy Arends’ and Maria Lacle, love story which inspired a beautiful home. From there we swung by the Protestant Church – as you know it is alas, not open to the public, via Plaza Daniel Leo to Lolita’s kiosk, for award-winning pastechi. Really delicious!

A stop at the archeological museum revealed the air-conditioning in that place isn’t working, Norwin Maria, please help! The heat in Museo Arqueologico Aruba is unbearable. What good is a museum if you can’t keep it up?!

We strolled down Schelpstraat into the main street, said Bon Dia at La Linda Department Store to the dandy doorman, then continued our stroll past shops and shoppers to Coco Plum Tropical Terrace. I remember the place from decades ago, it belonged to the Arends family, but it still looks the same under new management. We sampled some fresh Pan Bati, made exhibition style.

On the return via Wilhelminastraat, we wondered why the tourists on the trolley never get off to shop, but remain seated on the benches for the duration of the trip; we heard more stories about historic building, where shop-keepers lived above their stores.

Recommended. Mark gives a good tour; his narrative includes Aruba’s history, traditions, besides the museums and the monuments. The walk is easy! For groups of 10 and more you also get street performers. Starts at 9am at Wilhelminastraat 2.

Aruba Wine & Dine Tour: Starting at Moomba Beach Bar for an appetizer and wine pairing, this is a new attraction offered every Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm, and reservations are required. The tour guide is a professional sommelier, from Mendoza, Argentina. Her name is Fernanda, and she is charming and very knowledgeable.  Guests are then walked across to Hadicurari restaurant for their second appetizer, in our case, we had delicious fresh and plump shrimp over pasta. Fernanda kept pouring the wine, and pointing the subtleties of pairing, out. The main course, at Tango Argentine Restaurant featured a yummy skirt steak. How did we get from Hadicurari to Tango? By bus. Apparently Aruba Wine and Dine operates little tour buses so we were shuttled in style.  After dinner, we were invited to Soprano’s Piano Bar for a liquid dessert, some decadent  chocolate martini with chocolate truffles.  I walked back, and that is how I worked some of the calories I ingested, off. Very fun evening, progressive dinner, four spots in just one soiree…$75.- p.p.


Interesting post regarding healthcare!

Richie Kock Attorneys

Record amount for immaterial damages granted in Aruban medical malpractice case

Case AR 233/2015

On November 23rd of 2016, the Court in First Instance of Aruba granted a record amount for immaterial damages in excess of AWG 80,000 ($45,000), including legal interest, in a medical malpractice case regarding the removal of the plaintiff’s breast without medical necessity. The defendants were the medical professional, Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital and Country Aruba.

The Court concluded that the unnecessary removal of plaintiff’s breast constituted a serious transgression on her physical integrity. For that reason, a substantial compensation was justified.

Other damages: material damages and bereavement damages

In addition to immaterial damages, i.e. for emotional suffering, the plaintiff may also claim compensation for incurred materialdamages.

Among others, material damages may result from a decreased ability or complete inability to perform work or produce income. For instance, in case the medical error physically disabled the patient or even resulted in his death. In the latter case, the relatives of the deceased patient may claim material damages on the basis of article 6:108 Civil Code (loss of income).

If the Court accepts the claim, the defendant(s) would be ordered to compensate the plaintiff for said material damages as well.

Conversely, only the patient may claim financial compensation for incurred emotional suffering. The patient’s relatives cannot claim so-called ‘bereavement damage’ or ‘affectionate damage’ (affectieschade) for their emotional suffering resulting from the disabled state or even death of the patient following to the medical err. At least not yet.

Last year, a bill for the introduction of financial compensation for bereavement damages (wetsvoorstel schadevergoeding zorg- en affectieschade) was sent to the Dutch Parliament. The hearing was scheduled to take place last October. A previous attempt to introduce the bereavement damage in 2003, failed when it was rejected by the Dutch Senate in 2010.

The introduction of bereavement damages in the Netherlands may result in the applicability thereof in the Dutch Caribbean, including Aruba. The legislative basis (article 39 of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands) as well as the judicial basis (as applied by the Dutch Supreme Court) of the ‘principle of concordance’ (concordantiebeginsel) would make this possible.

Number of complaints filed in Aruba

According to the 2014 annual account of the HOH, a total of 154 complaints were filed by patients in 2014. In 2013, a total of 193 complaints were registered. The complaints range from financial complaints to complaints regarding medical treatment. The report does not specify which or how many complaints are based on medical malpractice.

P.O.R. The Island’s Post-Otmar-Recovery!

I am just going to let you read this, then we’ll talk!

According to data published recently by the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association the total number of stopovers visiting Aruba decreased by 29.8% in October, from 109,024 in October 2015 to 76,491 in October 2016.

In the first ten months of 2016 the number of stopover visitors decreased by 7.0% from 996,162 in 2015 to 926,290 in 2016.

Traffic from the USA was down by 3.6%, from 46,778 stopovers in October 2015 to 45,080 stopovers in October 2016. Traffic was up by 1.2% from New York State but down by 6.1% from Massachusetts and down 6.0% from New Jersey, which is worrisome, because these are two of our main feeder states.

However overall, in the first ten months of 2016 the number of stopover visitors from the USA increased by 1.0% from 518,107 in 2015 to 523,448 in 2016.

So basically October was not a good month here, and hoteliers, restaurateurs, and taxi drivers would concur that it sucked.

Travel from Venezuela is as good as dead. It was down by 76.7% in October from 40,387 stopovers in October 2015 to 9,412 in October 2016. Remember those crazy days of the card-swipers, in which ATA insisted business was booming, because those visitors were included in our tourism arrival statistics??

Overall, things quieted down substantially, and our affluent Venezuelan guests of yesteryears are gone to Miami. In the first ten months of 2016 the number of stopover visitors from Venezuela fell by 31.4%, from 270,889 in 2015 to 185,740 in 2016.

Conclusion? We should all be concerned with the influx of guests from the USA, because October showed a decline while “outbound travel by US citizens grew by 8.2% in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period for 2015 and was up by 3.1% to the Caribbean.” The quote is from the Caribbean Hotel Associations stats.

Think about the island Pot-Otmar-Recovery efforts, which we can refer to as P.O.R. Last year’s numbers looked better because of the inflated Venezuelan arrivals, and this year without that crazy influx, we must face reality, that more money must be spent and that additional airlift is required, even if we have to subsidize it.

Some hoteliers I spoke to said that, clearly the misguided all-inclusive witch-hunt hurt us: Because our visitors demand that experience. The agents who sell them the trips make more commission on all inclusive packages, and naturally lean towards booking them. Rocking the boat resulted in a capsized vessel.

Luckily our big players, the Marriott and the Hyatt and the Hilton, have their own marketing machines, and these are working overtime, efficiently, because November looks better as far as the hotel occupancies go.

I meant to report a while ago and didn’t get to it, on part of our Post-Otmar-Recovery efforts: A Pow-Pow with the government, and the full AHATA board of directors, on Nov 18!

The new MinTour, Mike de Meza, responsible for Energy, Utilities, and the Environment, when he accepted the Tourism & Transportation portfolios, reached out and wanted to meet the hoteliers. Surprise, when the meeting took place he showed up with the entire cabinet in tow, including the MinPres, MinEcon, MinInfra, MinFin, MinEdu, MinLabor, MinJust, and GevMin.

Did they sing all Kum-ba-yah, did they smoke the peace pipe, did they hug, kiss and make up?

Almost. The Cabinet was super chilled, there was a significant change of tone, conciliatory, non-confrontational. They basically threw the former MinTour under the bus stating the tensions were all his doing, and in the Post-Otmar-Recovery, things will be different!

The Aruba Hotel & Tourism association repeated its position, and its desire to be equally represented on the Aruba Tourism Authority Supervisory Board, where members could speak their minds freely, without intimidation.

The new MinTour was humble, low key, he said he is leaving tourism to the experts, and since the MinPres was in full campaign mode, he also declared his intentions to undo some of the damage, and mend relationships with industry.

AHATA’s attitude? Let’s wait and see, because the industry has been led down that path before and was disappointed.

But the process of mending fences is underway, AHATA will send three representatives to the Supervisory Board of ATA and will maintain a smaller board of its own, by the end of January.

Key concerns remain key concerns, and it was all presented to the cabinet, to refresh its stale memory: Marketing improvement in the USA and Europe; the modernization of the archaic labor laws; the revision of the crippling recent legislation changes in the way the hotels are licensed; the ridiculous beach policy that never happened.

The hoteliers reminded the government that they were promised a reduction on import duties, which was designed to encourage renovations; They also reiterated they were still waiting for the promised modification in the sky high price of electricity, which the government agreed to charge differently; best of all, the hoteliers demanded clarity, wishing to hear where the Environmental Levy was going, and into which black hole, the levy collected by both hotels and timeshare resorts, was funneled.

They also had concerns about education, and wished to enhance the current tourism and hospitality courses and training programs for elementary school’s curriculum, so that awareness of tourism on the island and its importance, can be increased, and be put into effect.

The laundry list presented to the government was long: Casino operations and the change in the way the casino tax is charged; the introduction of a Gaming Board; The timeshare resorts, the Destination Management Companies, the restaurants, the retail sector and our taxis, all required improvements, enhancement and regulations.

My sources report the meeting was amicable. And a month later, nothing happened, yet.


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December 11, 2016
Rona Coster