Recognized former ATA director Jan Van Nes

At a recent informal ceremony, the Minister of Tourism and Public Health congratulated and recognized past Aruba Tourism Authority directors, thanking them for their contributions to the island’s successful industry.

It was a surprising gesture, says Jan Van Nes, among past directors, I was happy about that, I consider myself among the younger directors, and was honored to stand among greats such as Michael Kuiperi, Rory Arends and Myrna Jansen-Feliciano.

The Aruba Tourism Authority, as an organization, underwent metamorphoses. It was first establish as the Aruba Tourist Commission, then it became the Aruba Tourism Bureau, and finally in recent years the Aruba Tourism Authority.

Jan was director for a relatively short time from 1995 to 2000, and he resigned from his post when he felt that politics interfered too much in the workings of his department.

Jan recalls that he was hired by minister Tico Croes, who made it clear that 80% of his job was tourism motivated and 20% politically inspired. When that delicate balance was upset in the Dr. Lily Beke era, he resigned.

He came from the private sector, the general manager of the Aruba Beach Club and Casa del Mar, and he was never a government employee. Used to running independently, as a man of action, the public sector presented new challenges.

I thought at the time that he butted heads continuously with government officials, but now I understand why.

Tourism during his years, was not an independent entity within the government, and Jan as its director had his hand stretched out on an ongoing basis, trying to keep up with payments to vendors, with money that was budgeted, approved but not easily forthcoming.

That situation changed the minute ATA became a sui-generis, a semi-governmental entity, in January 2011, receiving most of the tourist tax as income — I say most, because GOA has been known to syphon its annual pound of flesh!

Jan returned to the private sector and over the years helped set up the Aruba Security Foundation, the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund, and the Aruba Time Share Association. He continues to be helpful to the hospitality industry here, including the Food & Beverage Association.

Post-government, his career later took him to Playa Linda, where he served as the General Manager for years; He was later the General Manager of Blue condominiums, and a kitchen apprentice with Chef Urvin Croes at the Kitchen Table in his spare time. He studied law at the University of Aruba, became a lawyer, but never practiced.

Finally, inspired by his Peruvian-born wife to open Asi Es Mi Peru and to take over the Kitchen Table, two businesses found at Paradise Beach Villas, he is now busy and preoccupied around the clock.

In 2007, he explains, ATSA delivered a white paper to the government, which was destined to a drawer, somewhere. We talked about the challenges we are facing today, in that paper. And because recommendations weren’t followed, we are today worried about the level of service on the island, among other issues.

I met Jan at the AFBA Forum: Advancing Synergy with Governmental Labor Instances. As a restaurateur he says, if an employee was late to his shift, up until yesterday, he got a mild reprimand, and was asked to please be more punctual. Today, as employers, we thank our people for showing up late, and suffer from anxiety with every incoming WhatsApp message.

I asked Jan about his children, did they opt for hospitality, no he said, one is a medical professional and the other specializes in sociology/psychology.

We work 16 hours a day, he says, to us it is the way of the world, the way it has always been, the kids don’t want that, they want to have a life.




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February 23, 2024
Rona Coster