Cu Mira Pa Futuro, looking into the crystal ball

The first sign that welcomed me in Portugal on a recent vacation was graffiti, Mass Tourism = Human Pollution, and Mass Tourism kills Lisbon, in several places around our Alfama neighborhood hotel. And Portugal is not as busy as Venice, Amsterdam or New Orleans, and it is starting to complain.

In past decades developing countries did everything possible to attract tourism often at the expense of their local population. The tide is turning now. Cities want neighbors not tourists; a steady, responsible core of people not a transient, uncaring bunch of carefree vacationers.

In Aruba, we have enjoyed the blessings of tourism, and up until a few years ago, the island was able to cope with the influx of people, and whatever comes along with 1.1 million tourists enjoying the hospitality of 120.000 people. I used to say that Arubans are intuitively gifted with a sense of navigation, making successful decisions about growth and development based on notions, without the science.

It is clear today that we can no longer make life-changing decisions without a plan, hence the Aruba Destination Development Plan, titled Cu Mira pa Futuro that crossed my desk this week. (Cu Mira Pa Futuro may be loosely translated to With a Future Outlook)

It is an impressive document. It talks about the challenge we’re facing, it explores the way forward, and outlines a reasonable plan, breaking it down to a detailed action plan of three phases, destined for completion between 2017 and 2021.

The document was written by project lead and author Varelie Croes, the Liv Group, who is a former lawyer-finance-corporate exec turned entrepreneur. She is into technology and startups, with a special interest in fintech development. She’s basically the Woman of the Hour, in anything to do with innovations. She also co-founded ATECH with a mission to develop the startup and technology ecosystem in Aruba and the Caribbean region. Named a World Change Maker by the world bank youth steering committee, Varelie, compiled an impressive document as an initiative of the Aruba Tourism Authority, in collaboration with many ATA execs, under the leadership of CEO Ronella Tjin Asjoe Croes  and I wish I could give you all a copy for Christmas, it would be excellent reading material by your virtual fireplace.

The writing of the document involved 350+ stakeholders, over a significant length of time, and it aligns the island with UNWTO’s sustainable tourism goals, linked to the UN 2030 agenda, regarding sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

What can I tell you? It is the Bible. If we drink our own Koolaid we will be ok. We will be able to handle the ever-changing paradigm and do good by visitors and locals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My only source of concern?

Aruba has been known for shelving reports and plans.

Stakeholders such as GOA, the land department, DIP, and public works, DOW, etc., have regarded integrity as a suggestion, for many years.

The island doesn’t have a long term thinking culture, it has always been about short term solutions of gains.

That said, I can’t wait for the Advocacy Agenda and Sustainability Awareness Plan scheduled for 2017 to be published, because I can help publicize them. It is of outmost importance that we all embrace sustainable practices if we want to stay in business. Keep me in the loop, tks in advance.

 

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December 08, 2017
Rona Coster