‘New Normal,’ we wish it existed!

Written with local resident N.C., who asked to have her name withheld.

It seems all deals are still on, with the new rooms and new developments underway, in Aruba.

GOA announced last week it has hundreds of projects on the fast track, and noted it was a sign of confidence of investors in Aruba’s economic future.

We’re sad.

We thought there would be a ‘New Normal,’ in GOA circles, too.

In the past 2.5 months many of us spent a great deal of time reflecting on our lives trying to understand the definition of the new normal and what it means for us as an island- nation and also as individuals. 

I have heard many people say this pandemic is like pushing a welcome ‘reset’ button. I think it’s safe to say, many of us now realize how vulnerable life can be. 

We now value humanity more than ever before.

And we finally realize that sometimes “less is more,” focusing on quality instead of quantity.  Cherishing and taking good care of what we have instead of constantly seeking more. 

We have perhaps learned that what we have today, can easily be all gone tomorrow.

Listening to those daily, then frequent, press conferences since March 15th, many of us were hopeful that GOA learned some of the same lessons from the pandemic. Maybe it finally realized that quality tourism is more important than quantity. 

Maybe it realized we must focus on the improvement of what we have instead of permitting more hotels and condos, that we simply don’t need. 

Maybe GOA realized that in order to build these additional hotels, we also must import another 10,000-15,000 people to work at these properties and if another crisis unfolds, GOA will have an extra army of people to take care for. 

So yes, we were hoping to see some ideological changes.

Sadly, that does not seem to be the case. 

We fear GOA learned nothing from the crisis. All deals are still on.  All those hotels and condos are still on the books. Focusing on quantity instead of quality is still the current strategy, because the projects were approved prior to the pandemic. 

Naturally, Aruba did not foresee the crisis. And the promise of employment, raises, bonuses for employees and building and director permits for developers seemed normative, then.

But now?

The world has changed.

We live in a different reality.

It’s almost like starting from scratch.  All those previously welcome deals don’t work for us anymore.  This is the time to make immediate and necessary alterations. 

We were told about Secrets all-inclusive resort coming to San Nicholas. We don’t need it anymore, seriously, it is unsustainable.

We were told about Iberostar all inclusive, coming in with two resorts, not just one, but never officially. One Iberostar is destined to the location previously known as the SANDS, and one to Arashi, accessible via Tierra De Sol, much to the chagrin of homeowners entitled to quiet enjoyment of their life, at the gated community.

They will now be struggling with elevated level of traffic and noise pollution, if that plan for a giant Iberostar comes through.

AHATA, and ATA have been trying to get the list of approved projects for a long time, with the MinTour stonewalling, and dodging the issue.

MINISTER – Can we finally see the list?

What are you planning to do with all those suspended projects.

Are there 4,000 hotel/condo rooms no one needs on the drawing board?

Remember, locals are also entitled to quiet enjoyment of their island, without it ever again becoming OVERRUN by visitors. All of these projects must be officially nixes.

NOW IS THE TIME TO EMPOWER THE MINPRES to make hard decision.

Mandate the famous moratorium. We want it enforced. Period. This is an opportunity to curb rampant over-development.

What locals now fear most, is that in their drive towards growth, GOA will relax all permit processes, and even if developers can’t comply with the rules of financing and time-limits, they will be cut plenty of slack, in order to facilitate dreaded growth.

Those of us who remember the Italians construction companies of the late 80s, and the mess they left behind, know what I am taking about.

We already heard MINJUST informed AHATA that GOA has no intention to ban UTV and ATV vehicles; to avoid further job losses during difficult economic times. Typical short term thinking of a Jell-O-spine politician.

Nix these projects, don’t let them linger and drag, take decisive action to protect our housing supply, our health care system, we cannot excessively burden our electricity & water production, our rundown sewer plant, our underfunded education, our unregulated and neglected nature.

These projects cannot become a reality.

Let’s focus on quality tourism instead of quantity.  Save whatever is left of this beautiful island.  It’s not too late. 

Let’s make Cov-19 an opportunity to re-brand, and re-position.

Let’s make Aruba a five-star island, not just for visitors but for locals too.  Let’s push that ‘re-set’ button and do it right this time.

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May 23, 2020
Rona Coster
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
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