Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, March 26th, 2016

NO SMOKING, please!

Some years ago when the whole smoking issue first hit places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City many casinos were already seeing a decline in gaming revenues and were fearful that a ban on smoking would significantly reduce revenues further. Studies at that time also showed that this fear was justified, as revenues declined in jurisdictions that enforced a ban. It is not surprising therefore, that casinos reacted and lobbied vigorously against smoking bans.

Since gaming typically attracts individuals with more vices than virtues, the argument that the obnoxious cigar smoking high-roller will magically be replaced by a bunch of smoke free gamblers is unlikely. To fuel this argument further, with smoking bans enforced in many public places, the non smoking lobby, empowered by its success, goes to TripAdvisor and other social media platform with outrageous exaggerations about the volume of smoke in casinos.

In England, for example, where they have a smoking ban, there are casinos in London that have extended or reconstructed their premises to provide smoking tables in an open air covered patio.

It is true, that many years ago, when I would finish a day at the Alhambra Casino or the Royal Cabana Casino where I worked at director of marketing, my clothes and hair would smell like an ashtray. But today, all casinos installed expensive ventilation systems and it is NO LONGER TRUE that the clouds of smoke are so thick that you can’t see the players at the next table!!!

One of my friends, a casino manager says: “As a nonsmoker I am fully aware of the effects of second-hand smoke, so I’m not excited about seeing smokers in a casino; but my experience now suggests that there are far fewer smokers around in recent years. The challenge is that, also in recent years, there are very few casinos in Aruba that are making any money so I am not surprised to still resistance to change. I made an independent study last year that showed that only 5% to 6% of all persons in the casino were either smoking or showed evidence of having smoked, sitting next to a used ashtray, for example.”

In the new legislation, the restaurants are being given no time to adjust whilst the casinos are getting 2 years. In most casinos there is signage tucked in the drawers of pit stands that state: “This is a non smoking table”. When players, by consensus, request their table to be non smoking then the casinos typically oblige. Perhaps the casinos could use this two year grace period to create signage that reflects the new norm and reads: “This is a smoking table”, and offer it only when consensus dictates.

More than anything, casinos are wary of the UNEVEN playing field, and shortcuts taken by competitors, because the most critical part of the legislation, enforcement, is not being enforced.

There has been talk for many years and general support for a Gaming Board where a small group of diligent gaming professionals would have wider powers, replacing the “Friends and Family” of elected politicians, whose job it is to police the entrance of the casinos.

Aruba came close some years ago when the government selected four competent individuals. Alas, that was short lived, because soon after the elections the Gaming Board was disbanded; but not before they sat frustrated at home for a year on full pay!

Clearly the Gaming Board would need to include persons with no political affiliation and the strength of character to challenge observed irregularities.

ABOUT THE EXCELSIOR VERDICT, A READER SAYS: I did not hear all the details of the five year sentencing, but as with most sentences in Aruba they rarely provide adequate deterrent from crime. I would be interested to know if the money was recovered! It reminds me of an incident many years ago when we had a couple of guys changing false traveler’s checks at the casino. The cage supervisor was alerted by another casino soon after the transaction and a couple of employees dashed into the parking lot and followed the thieves as they drove off. The consensus at the time was that the police would not bother with a $2,000 theft at 2am unless you handed them a guaranteed catch. Our intrepid pursuers tracked the thieves down to a hotel in town and the police arrived and arrested the two guys and retrieved the cash that they had stolen from us and other casinos. The $2,000 remained as evidence and to this day, sadly, there is no evidence of its existence!!!!

Thank you to all who have contributed to the article.

From Sui Generis to TPEF

Last week we celebrated five years of the Aruba Tourism Authority Sui Generis project. We were invited to a Business Mixer in town, at the former Carpe Diem location for a networking opportunity hosted by the very hard working Aruba Tourism Authority CEO, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, the diligent CMO Sanju Luidens Daryanani, with their complete ATA crew in attendance. It was an enjoyable party catered by the Renaissance Resort.

In her welcome address the CEO mentioned the anniversary of her organization, and also cited some super results for calendar year 2015, where the number of stopovers visiting Aruba grew by 14.3%. It sounded good, but the hoteliers among cocktail-party invitees grumbled. They don’t judge success by the number of stopovers. They use RevPAR, revenue per available room as an indicator, and according to them Aruba’s RevPAR increased by 1.0% in 2015 while the RevPAR in the USVI soared by 18%, in Cancun by 14%, and in the Cayman Islands, Saint Lucia and Jamaica by 5% to 12%, compared to same period in 2014, meaning Aruba performed below average. But as I said, it was a super party, an annual hoopla, and the location was fabulous. Our compliment to Glennie Tromp, who thought about the venue.

Sui Generis was an innovative move as far as public policy & governance, because it turned the “Aruba Tourism Authority from a government agency to a unique independent legal entity within the public sphere, allowing a flexible organizational structure and work processes. Thanks to the change in legislation spearheaded by the MinTour, Aruba Tourism Authority has been functioning similarly to a private sector entity in the past five years, removed from government systems and bureaucracy.”

(Above was quoted from an ATA document.)

By changing the legal status of the tourism authority, it meant that all tax money collected from the hotels was to be directly funneled into the ATA coffers, or the Aruba Tourism Marketing Fund, instead of drowning in the government’s treasury, to be eventually allocated to tourism at the whim of the MinFin. The Sui Generis project completely circumvented the MinFin, and it gave tourism the freedom to spend every cent budgeted on promotion.

Sure, the spending is supervised by a joint public/private sector board of directors, but basically the MinTour is the boss.  At the time, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, whose money was being spent, signed a memorandum of understanding with the MinTour, that he will spend all the money on Promotion and on Promotion only, refraining from spending it on concerts, and special events and misc this and thats which pop up at every turn of the way.

True, the old fashioned 4Ps for marketing include Product, Place, Price AND Promotion, but the wise men and women of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association argued that all funds should go to the last P, Promotion. Because, leaving the door open for spending on “Product,” they argued, would only give the MinTour a green light to host all kind of petty projects and parties, so consequently, not one penny was allowed to be spent for “Product.”

The hoteliers stuck to the agreement; the MinTour deviated here and there, spending on the Bon Bini Festival and the Carubbian Festival, and basically he kept being himself. That said, I don’t think that we should continue to invest in the Carubbian Festival. Enough. We tried. It did not take off, let’s call it quits.

And that’s how the TPEF was born, the “Tourism Product Enhancement Fund,” when the hoteliers felt “Product” required a little tender loving care, in the form of road signs, trash cans distribution and trash collection, a million little things that remained undone, such as security cameras, street lights, lifeguards, the welfare of stray animals and the Linear Park.

The Aruba Time Share Association, which wasn’t taxed as highly as the hotels, coughed up another percentage to be spent on the improvement of “Product,” and the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund became a reality.

Last year they improved all trash cans in public areas, this year they will make them even bigger, and add lids! They will mark a swim zone in Malmok, 75 meter wide and 1,500 meter long dedicated to swimmers to keep the charter boats out further in the Malmok Aquarium. They will create a swim zone at Arashi. The TPEF projects are solely dedicated to Product Aruba. Some good initiatives were launched, and followed up on, and others remained on several Minister desks’ until the later agreed on what to release and what to discard.

Hoteliers agree they have a lot do as far as “Product” is concerned. While they take care of their properties, the public areas are often neglected, and we often do too little, too late.

The winning Lamb Sirloin Recipe, Iron chef 2015

Mark your calendars, the Iron Chef competition 2016 is scheduled for October 14th, 2016. Last year, the winner was chef Teddy Bouroncle, Complex Executive Chef at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino. His entree COCOA LAMB SIRLOIN WITH PUMPKIN PUREE, received the highest number of points from the judges. This week, this recipe is featured in the USMEF, US Meat and Export Federation, during their annual BOD, board of directors meeting! They will have all their international buyers in to meet exporters and they will have the lamb sirloin recipe from Aruba, featured at the reception. That should create bit of buzz for us, getting in front of producers and exporters, kudos to Teddy!

Upon the request of Elizabeth Wunderlich, “I need to make it into quantities that a housewife in Topeka can follow,” Teddy rewrote the instructions in simpler terms, and it sounds yummy.

COCOA LAMB SIRLOIN WITH PUMPKIN PUREE

LAMB AND MARINADE:

6oz lamb sirloin steak (180gms)

2.5tbsp minced garlic (10gms)

Rosemary 2oz

Parsley 2oz

Olive oil 100ml

Marinate the sirloin in garlic, rosemary, parsley and olive oil for at least one hour. Sear in a sauté pan over medium heat to medium/medium rare (3/4″ thick is about 3 minutes/side).

FOR SAUCE:

Green peppercorns 1oz

Onion, ½ finely chopped

Garlic 1oz

Olive oil 1oz

Dijon mustard 1tbsp

Brandy 2oz (1/4 cup),(50ml)

Reduced lamb stock 3 cups –can they substitute beef stock if grocer doesn’t carry lamb stock? Yes

Butter 3.5tbsp (<1/2 stick)

Cocoa powder 1tbsp

Thyme 1oz

In a sauté pan over medium heat, toast the green peppercorns and add onions and garlic and olive oil and sauté until transparent; add Dijon mustard, brandy and stock, thyme and cocoa and reduce until thickened. Right before serving, add butter to give texture and brightness to sauce.

PUMPKIN PUREE:

Pumpkin 2lb PEELED, CUBED, ROASTED

Garlic 5oz

Brown sugar 4oz

Thyme 1oz

Butter 100gr

Heavy cream 100ml

Olive oil 100ml

Roast pumpkin with olive oil garlic, sugar, and thyme for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F or until soft.  Put pumpkin in blender with butter and cream and puree.

Teddy Bouroncle

Complex Executive Chef| Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

 

A Culinary Trip Down Memory Lane in a Pineapple Boat

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino solicited pictures and other memorabilia just recently, in an effort to turn the resort’s old images from the 50s, 60s and 70s into artworks for the renovated rooms.

Love the idea.

Many people came forward with quaint and old fashioned pictures, brochures and menus which were received by Nunette Maduro, PR & Marketing Manager at the Grande Dame, and she shared some of them with me

I liked the menus best. They offered a rare glimpse into the culinary world of that time, for example a Banquete by PPA, that’s what it was called a Banquete, by the ruling political party, the Patriotic Party of Aruba, in which the island’s most influential people Juancho Irausquin, Oscar Henriquez and Ernesto Petrona gave a social, political and economical resume of the island’s situation paired with their take on its well-being and progress.

The nicely printed menu outlined what they ate: Chicken Legs, Roast Pork, Frankfurters, Bush Salad, Pickled Beef Salad, Potato Salad and Coffee Cake, all that for 50 florins per person, that’s a huge charge at the time when the room for the night at the hotel was about $13. The door prize was a radio, in April 28th, 1962.

On July 22nd 1966, Princess Beatrix who will become our Monarch in 1980, and her husband Prince Claus enjoyed a gold-engraved menu on the occasion of their visit here. Their amazing lunch menu included Lobster Medallions en Belle Vue, poached lobster, with mayo dressing over embellished greens, followed by Boeuf Wellington, center cut filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry, layered with pâté de foie gras, drizzled with sauce Perigueux, a rich classic flavored with Madeira wine and black truffles. The masterpiece was escorted by Bouquetiere Aristocrate, which are aristocratic vegetables, and Pomme Noisettes, bite-size potato balls. They had the salad after the main course, Salad Mimosa, a layered Russia-inspired, yellow colored fish stack, and for dessert Bavaroise Royale, thick pastry cream with gelatin, garnished with fruit. The meal culminated with Le Café, and Les Liqueurs. The royals sipped Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon 1962, and Champagne Dom Perignon 1959. I would have loved to have been there.

Another lunch on October 1st 1965. Princess Beatrix and her husband, the Prince of the Netherlands, are in Aruba again, at again at the Grande Dame, this time they had Caviar Frais sur un Socle de Glace with Blini au Beurre, very traditional fresh Caviar on ice and butter Blini presentation, followed by Homard et Supremes de Volaille, yes, chicken and lobster, au fine Champagne en Bateau d’Ananas! That cracked me up, doused in expensive bubbly in a pineapple boat, so charming, such an effort.  La Salade Tropical followed, and for dessert La Cream Charlotte Romanoff, delivered a sponge cake and whipped mousse with strawberries filling, anything Romanoff always means strawberries. Demi Tasse and Cognac Martell concluded the affair. I would have liked to have been there too!

Just think about the island in the 50s and 60s, how nothing grows here, how everything is imported, how “fresh” really means a two week boat trip, and they managed to produce food fit for a queen, in great style, inspired by French and Russian culinary trends. We don’t eat like that anymore because we watch our calories, our salt intake and cholesterol. But those menus are so cool. And in perfect French, naturally, because the language of hospitality and F&B was French at the time. And I still hunt menu for the misspelled bourguignonne when it come to escargots, because that’s all that’s left from purely French cuisine on our contemporary menus. And pardon me if I made any spelling errors, my French is rusty too.

GOOD JOB SPEED. I had no time to formulate an article about the thoroughly entertaining Nelson Speed Andrade VS. MinTour heavy weight boxing bout, but I will tomorrow. Meanwhile I would like to congratulate Speed on being fired from an ungrateful job, this is the beginning of your new life, celebrate, it’s not like you are unemployed, you still work for the MinPres, don’t you?!

GREAT IDEA, FEEL FREE TO STEAL IT. As part of Corporate Social Responsibility at Proskauer, an international law firm, Jeans Day on Friday became Casual Day for a Cause, on which associates dress down, wearing casual clothes to the office, providing they make a donation to a different foundation each week. On Tuesday this week, Proskauer made an unexpected donation to the Julien Collot Foundation,www.thejuliencollotfoundation.org/ with the pledge to share the cause with their 8 U.S. offices. Wendy H. Dessy called to announce the donation, on behalf of her organization, following on her son’s Jay tip that it was a worthwhile cause.  Julien Collot, “the most amazing boy in the world,” a resident of Chatham NJ, loved vacationing in Aruba with the Cannon & Collot families, who are many time repeat guests of the island and own timeshare vacation weeks at La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino and at Paradise Beach Villas. Julien passed away on Friday, January 21, 2011, at the age of 8, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, NY.  If measured in years, his life was too short, yet he has touched, inspired and influenced more people than most could hope for during a full life span. The Julien Collot Foundation, which was founded in 2007 in honor of “Ju Ju,” is dedicated to funding research and trials for pediatric cancers and to assist affected families in need. So….how about starting Casual Day for a Cause, on Friday, within your organization, you’d be surprised how much money you could raise and how much difference you could make.

EXCLUSIVE MONFORTE III HAS ARRIVED. We were invited to a cocktail party on the new luxury Pelican Adventures boat, a teak vessel, which just arrived on the island from Brazil. We were not alone, the MinPres, the MinInfra and the MinLabour joined us for a short time just before heading to Fort Zoutman for the Aruba Dushi Tera, new anthem recording debut. We were treated to elegant champagne flutes and seafood nibbles, and admired the beautifully outfitted, latest addition to Aruba’s sailing options, the MonFort III.

Having been rebuilt and modified in Brazil, when the boat was ready for its maiden voyage to Aruba, Martin Molina and a handful of crew members flew down, ready to sail the vessel to it new home. Mid-way, exhausted, they asked a few more crew members to join the trip on the high seas, including son Dylan Molina, to help bring the new baby home. She’s big, she’s gorgeous and she kept the crew busy around the clock, until she finally sailed into the Oranjestad harbor.

The MonForte III with lots of deck space and shade, and a huge mortar and pestle for freshly crushed caipirineas, will be offering luxury sit-down dinner cruises for about 10 couples nightly, and exclusive day trip to the Spanish Lagoon with snorkeling, lunch and libations. The emphasis is on exclusive, few people, VIP service, premium bar, freshly grilled lobster, dolce vita all the way.

Aruba’s elder statesman Oscar Henriquez, was on board with his daughter Tisa Lasorte, Oscar started Pelican Adventures in 1994, and the family owned and run company offers seaside dining, Catamaran sailing trips, and scuba.

 GOOD JOB SPEED.

I read with great interest about the thoroughly entertaining Nelson “Speed” Andrade vs. MinTour heavy-weight boxing bout, I also watched some of the press conference on Diario TV. The questions asked by Speed were excellent, I want to know myself who financed the state trip to the Netherlands, and why Aruba’s logo exploitation is making a private citizen rich, rather than benefiting the country.

But while Speed’s line of questioning is legit — curious minds what to know — his motives are unclear, and I would not be surprised if we establish that the MinPres asked Speed to kindly trip the MinTour’s trigger. I couldn’t help but notice that as the press conference got heated, the MinTour’s internal agitation grew, along with his frustration. The more he talked about transparency, striving to refute Speed’s allegations, the less credulous he sounded.

Back to the trigger: The fact that Speed managed to push the MinTour’s buttons means that his information was correct. If Speed’s info was baloney, the MinTour would have brushed the questioning off. Consulting “The Guide to Psychology and its Practice,” I learned that when confronted with a truth we wish to hide, we usually react in anger, at being caught/exposed. According to that website “The initial reaction when hidden secrets are revealed, is anger.”

On the other hand people living in glass houses should not throw bombs, because I am speculating that Speed has been in service, as the MinPres personal news distributor for many years, and perhaps getting paid for that. (All speculation on my part, this is a gossip column, not the gospel!)

Admittedly, I complain about this whole culture of Cut & Paste news all the time, because a number of years ago, the ministers each hired their own news making and regurgitating machines, thus prostituting the whole process of news collection and dissemination, on Aruba.

Why? Because the newspapers never want to pay for the services their reporters render. They don’t want to pay for smart, educated, qualified commentators.

Why? Because advertising rates here are low, and the greedy newspapers never want to dish out any cash to employ capable writers.

Churning and reprinting canned news is good enough for the local newspapers where reporters sit at their desks, cut and paste releases, without ever getting off their chairs. That’s what they get paid for.

About a decade ago, the government was only happy to comply: Each minister recruited his own press-release machinery charging their services to his department’s payroll. They now serve us blatant propaganda as “news,” and the newspapers and news websites publish the grub, against a small sponsor subsidy or an ad here and there, perhaps a banner.

Speed is good, he moves, he multi-tasks, he is fearless and intimidating. He makes the MinPres look presidential from every angle, disseminating his every word. Speed takes his job seriously, including the egging of the MinTour on, until the later blew his stack.

On the issue of remuneration: I would never have been able to write, without this website’s sponsors. May they thrive and prosper. I worked for newspapers for 23 years and they always paid me peanuts begrudgingly. Which was Ok because I am self-employed and the newspaper was not my only income.

Reporters MUST be paid well, like any other professionals, and if they cannot make ends meet on their newspaper salary and they assume other jobs, radio, TV, photography, to supplement their income, it kills journalism, and it makes them vulnerable. You cannot write from the heart, what’s on your mind when you fear for your job!

And don’t you think that working for some minister is such a big deal! We once created some adz in Island Temptations Magazine for the MinInfra and the MinEcon, they wanted to a create a business revival buzz, that was approximately five years ago, we’re still waiting to get paid, as our invoices are ignored like they don’t exist.

Diario without Speed is like fries without ketchup, because he was a major news provider. What will they fill the newspaper with?

 

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March 26, 2016
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster