The 2021 edition of the AHATA Excellence Awards, recognized the island’s top performers

The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, AHATA, recognized thirty-eight remarkable individuals, supporting Aruba’s tourism industry, on December 2nd, 2021.

The association conducts an annual search for dedicated individuals, among all its members, leading to the award ceremony. It is a lengthy process, during which those who make a real difference within their organizations are identified and praised, first by their employers, and later, on a recent Thursday, by the island, and the industry as a whole, during an elegant luncheon event at the Hyatt Regency with 150 cheering guests in attendance.

It gave the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association great pleasure to celebrate the highly motivated employees supporting the industry, as it takes more than sugar-white beaches, and a brilliant marketing plan to create a solid, fail-proof industry, that keeps serving visitors to the island, consistently, since the late 50s, more than 70 years of hospitality, through thick and thin, rich and lean years.

AHATA members selected their top employees to be recognized, and those were honored by the industry’s top accolade, the AHATA Excellence Award, for their outstanding performance in 2021.

The ballroom at the Hyatt Regency was filled with peers and colleagues, as 38 honorees received their certificates and a gift from the CEO and President of AHATA, Mrs. Tisa LaSorte, in the presence of the Minister of Tourism and Public Health, Mr. Dangui Oduber, the Minister of Labor and Integration, Mr. Glenbert Croes, and the AHATA Board of Directors.

What sets our 38 honorees apart explained LaSorte, is exceptional service-mindedness. It is obviously important in normal times, but post-crisis, as the island is focused on economic recovery, those highly motivated to serve, are a precious treasure, as they understand the challenges we face as a nation, on more than the individual level.

The honorees called on stage to be recognized included managers, supervisors, and agents, front-liners and back-of-the-house soldiers, blessed with an array of job skills and qualifications, illustrating the idea that excellence may be found everywhere, and that each of the honorees played an important role in their own sphere, and together they formed the big picture, the slowly but surely recovering economy of Aruba.

The Food & Beverage professionals were very well represented with:

Jose Ureña, Junior Sous Chef, Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort

With 28 years of service at his resort, Jose earned the Award of Excellence for being everreliable and responsible. A trustworthy leader with impeccable work ethic, and a consistent performer.

Rose-Mary Loopstok, Chef de Cuisine, Po-Ké Ono Restaurant @Renaissance Market Place

Roosje story is inspiring as she started as one of the early students of Chef Urvin Croes at his first restaurant, White Modern Cuisine. Within a few years, she transitioned from student to cook, sous-chef, and now Chef de Cuisine, entrusted with her own kitchen. Passionate about food as it meets diners, Rose-Mary has consistently done a phenomenal job.

Jean-Claude Werleman, Pastry Chef, Infini Restaurant

Chef Urvin Croes is proud of his students. The chef reports Jean-Claude blossomed when he went from cook to Pastry Chef, determined to create delicious works of edible art, with passion and great taste. Jean Claude has a thirst for learning and continuously researches culinary avenues, to further his craft.

Jorge Villada Restrepo, Head Chef, Yemanja Woodfire Grill

Jorge was nominated by Chef Proprietor Joyce Husken, a hard worker who runs a super popular restaurant in Oranjestad, for keeping up with her, explains Joyce, giving 200% day and night, without ever complaining of pressure or stress. Chef Joyce calls him a treasure. And we take her word for it.

Ana Maria Artunduaga, Waitress, Manchebo Beach Resort

Always a front-liner, and a great team member at Ike’s bistro, Ana Maria has been working for the company for 24 years. She is often recognized by name, by highly satisfied guests on social media, and in 2019, was a runner-up for the AHATA Awards of Excellence, an employee of the year. Ana Maria understands how important tourism is to her island, and fully contributes her share.

Sandra Aragon-Ramirez, General Manager, AZIA Restaurant & Lounge

Sandra began working at AZIA as a supervisor and after just six months was promoted to the restaurant manager. She was promoted again to general manager of both AZIA Restaurant and Daniel’s Steak & Chop, after just eighteen months. Sandra excels at her job, owing to her exceptional customer service skills. Her unwavering passion and dedication to work, are taking her far, to a remarkable career, filled with achievements.

Jennifer Bueno, Restaurant Manager, Papiamento restaurant

Jennifer has been working for Papiamento Restaurant for the past twenty years, ten of which as a restaurant manager. She started her career as a part-time waitress and steadily climbed up the ladder, with great dedication to work. Papiamento restaurant, known as a bastion of caring service, acknowledges Jennifer’s contributions, which bore the fruit of popularity and gained the company many accolades in the service industry

Representing the people with green thumbs who make our resorts look so good:

Ramon Statie, Pool and Landscaping Supervisor, Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach ResortRamon has been working at Divi Phoenix for 11 years. He is totally committed to running a top-notch department and kept the gardens, pools, and beach pristine, before, during, and after lock-down, with the help of his most-professional, super-charged team.

The local Sales Community, in all its different functions, had some great talent on display:

Shamanta Dirksz, Commercial Relations Coordinator, Tropical Bottling Company

Ambitious and focused, Shamanta started at the brewery as a tour guide and worked her way up from receptionist and customer service agent to her current position. She was essential in logistics when Aruba shut down and clients returned unsold stock. She was even more in demand when the island reopened and clients lined up for supplies. Working long and hard, Shamanta deserves the honor.

Raynedrick Koolman, Sales and Marketing Manager, Pelican Adventures 

Filling boats and busses, trips on the water and land, Raynedrick has juggled a lot of departures and arrivals at the company for the past nine years. He has great leadership skills and a sincere willingness to fulfill guests’ needs and wants, at service desks, and in the field, while empowering his colleague to do the same, in their respective positions within the company.

Marisol Sanchez Maldonado, Sales & Marketing Manager, Amsterdam Manor

Her colleagues say she is intelligent, dependable, honest, a fast learner, and a proactive team member. Marisol is the main driving force behind the company’s revenue management system, but she also genuinely cares about the wellbeing of her peers, guests, and the organization. With the resort under renovations mid and post-pandemic, she only saw opportunities, not a single challenge.

Daniel Fernandes Perna, Director of Catering and Locals Sales, Holiday Inn Resort Aruba

Daniel is one of the island’s veteran catering and event professionals, who rose up to challenges when the pandemic and the time post-pandemic reshuffled things at his beloved resort. He handled all situations with confidence and maturity, and received recognition for a fantastic job, exceptionally done.

Our retail stores were badly hit by the downturn of business but super-star employees kept them running: 

Kanchan Motwani, Sales Manager, Diamonds International Aruba      

Kanchan enjoys admiration for her enthusiasm, about the in-person, one-on-one, training sessions, she conducts with her team members, furthering their understanding of sales while maintaining a friendly and ever-cheerful demeanor. She consistently finds resourceful ways to improve and upgrade the skills of her co-workers, which is worthy of praise.

Natalia Certuche, Beauty Advisor, Maggy’s Perfumes, Cosmetics & Salon.

Natalia who has worked for the company for 13 years, doubled her effort to maintain strong leadership among her peers, and provide outstanding customer service, this year. She excelled on both ends of her work spectrum, adamant to promote and increase sales post-pandemic.

Delaine Samuels, Store Supervisor, The Salamander Group

Delaine won the hearts of colleagues and customers as she navigated challenging times with enthusiasm and commitment. A store supervisor since 2018, and working for the company for almost a decade, she is armed with a smile and strong leadership skills, she is an invaluable asset on the sales floor and behind the scenes.

Lindella Croes, Store Manager, JL Penha Aruba

Owing to her deep understanding of retail, and what it takes to entice clients to buy, Lindella has surpassed the company’s goals and expectations, for the past four years, as a determined leader and an exceptional colleague.

Minoushka Lampe, Assistant Manager, Colombian Emeralds Aruba

Minoushka has made a big difference at Colombian Emeralds in the way she tackles small and large projects, and how she goes above and beyond to support her team, and inspire them, with her own performance, always leading by example.

The administration and finance sectors were well represented at the award ceremony with two remarkable individuals:

Jenny Boekhoudt, Executive Administrative Assistant, Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club

As executive assistant to the resort General Manager, Jenny has a broad knowledge of accounting, and marketing, and provides solid support to management. Her personal relationships with guests were extremely beneficial when she was able to reassure guests that Aruba is safe, as a vacation destination, and that they should continue to travel our way despite apprehensions.

Rulene Schmidt, Finance Coordinator, Hyatt Place Aruba Airport  

When she started out, Rulene was a restaurant hostess at the Hyatt Regency, but she cross-trained ambitiously when she discovered her passion for numbers. Rulene exemplifies the spirit of excellent service, helping streamline procedures, and collaborates with her team to accomplish all complex missions.

Operations people are Jacks-of-all-trade as their versatility and the ability to improvise, keep their organizations in motion:

Kinziah Rodriguez, Front Desk & Operations, Charter Representative, Fofoti Tours & Transfers

An all-around company champion Kinziah has been at the heart of all activities for four years. She is responsible for all aspects of tours, from pre-arrival to check-in and administration. She keeps the island’s Air Canada clients informed and supported, as she meets and greets passengers at the airport, and at their hotels, always exceeding expectations.

Glenda Henricus, Senior Operations Manager, Eco Destination Management Services

Glenda, with decades of experience in the industry, managed to come through during the recent rollercoaster pandemic months, and demonstrated her spirit of hospitality and service, overcoming adversity and logistic obstacles. With her deep understanding of company vision, she forges ahead to implement it, and answer all needs, on a daily basis.

Fending against tropical pests, we have a winner in the service industry:

Yesenia Valle Ferreira, Supervisor, Professional Pest Control

Yesenia’s enthusiasm, courtesy, and eye for detail helped her promotion from technician to supervisor, at Professional Pest Control. Yesenia is famous among clients for her skillful and responsive actions, weekday and weekends, answering calls whenever needed in a most pleasant and accommodating manner.

Where would we be without the hardworking maintenance and engineering professionals?

Errol Every, Property Maintenance Supervisor, ECO Santa Lucia Landhuis & Cunucu.

Errol has been working for the unique property for four years, he keeps the facility in top shape and interacts with guests ensuring their stay in the heart of the island, in nature, is perfect. As a hands-on operator, he comes up with creative solutions for all maintenance challenges, attesting to his Aruban ingenuity.

Godfried Loefstop, Engineer 1, Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club

Twenty-two years ago, Godfried started his career with Marriott as a groundskeeper and six years later he was promoted to engineer. Godfried embraces the Marriott culture by always going the extra mile, and treating guests and colleagues with great respect. A proud representative of Aruba’s culture with his calm, hospitable and friendly demeanor; he is a true ambassador for the island.

Carell Leonardo Fingal, Senior Maintenance Technician, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort

Leonardo started with Bucuti five years ago as a houseman. A true believer in personal development and career growth, he now holds the position of senior maintenance technician, at the engineering department. Leo is committed to performance, based on the highest quality standards, and is famed for his dedication to guests, his team, and the department.

Angel “Junior” Rodriguez Amaro, Maintenance Employee, Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba

Angel has been working for the company for 3 years and has distinguished himself from day one, never wavering from his commitment to excellence. He brings strong work ethics and personal integrity to work every day, while being reliable, punctual, open to learning, and most importantly, wearing the friendliest smile.

Our guests go on tours where they meet the guides in charge of showing them the real Aruba, beyond the beaches:

Gary Bird, Driver/Tour Guide, E.L. Tours

Gary has worked for the company for 6 years, and never missed a day, as a highly disciplined worker he goes above and beyond to accomplish daily tasks. As a spokesperson for the island, he shares his extensive knowledge of tourism with his guests and strives to provide them with the best possible service, and the best possible memories of the island.

Cheqion Arends, Driver, De Palm Tours

While Cheqion has only been with the company for 1.5 years, he has been volunteering with the local chapter of the Red Cross for 11 years, an impressive personal story of community service. On the job, he is friendly, outgoing, respectful, and an out-of-the-box-thinker, which helps trouble-shooting any challenge he encounters. Cheqion leads by example and is a role model to his peers.

The resort front-liners, the ones who leave the first impression on our guests, at front –desks, at check-in:

Jacquelina Kelly, Front Desk Manager, RIU Palace Antillas

Jacquelina represents the core values of RIU Hotels such as effort, dedication to clients, and perseverance, all capped by a carefree smile, which helped her go from a front desk supervisor at the RIU Palace Aruba to assistant front desk manager, at the RIU Palace Antillas. And then with the reopening of RIU Palace Antillas, post-pandemic, Jacquelina became the front desk manager, developing an impressive career path, dedicated to service.

Julie-Ann Dijkhoff, Front Office Manager, Radisson Blu Aruba

An excellent leader and team player, Julie-Ann joined the new resort with a true service mindset, and quickly became an asset for the company, by tirelessly promoting the facility to guests and making them feel at home.

Josue Santana, Front Desk Manager, RIU Palace Aruba

Josue has been with RIU Hotels since 2008, first as a front desk clerk in the Dominican Republic and then he transferred to Aruba as front desk assistant manager in 2012, eventually becoming front desk manager in 2014. He has proven his commitment to the company and the island time and time again and is a role model for a positive attitude, and the drive for personal growth and development. Helpful to guests and colleagues, he is a key player at the resort.

Roland Hermosen, Assistant Front Office Manager, Eagle Aruba Resort

Roland began working at the Eagle Aruba 3 years ago as front desk supervisor. Owing to his outstanding work, devotion, and natural talent, he was swiftly promoted to assistant front office manager. Roland is fully committed to the visitor’s experience. One of his most remarkable abilities is to remain calm and professional under pressure and always keep his focus on the visitor’s experience,

John Lopez Restrepo, Shift leader, Bell Services, La Cabana Beach Resort

John became part of the La Cabana family in 1992 as a houseman. Soon after, he was hired as a bellman by bell services and was promoted to shift leader of bell services after 7 years of providing excellent customer service to guests at the resort. John continues to WOW La Cabana’s guests and exceeds their expectations any day of the week.

Erwin Williams, Doorman, Divi Village I

Erwin is an admirable, dedicated, and loyal employee who demonstrates an excellent work ethic. He has been the proud face of the lobby, as a doorman at the Divi Dutch Village & Golf for the past 2 years. His wonderful personality charms everyone he comes in contact with, and the ensuing exchange always exceeds guests’ expectations.

The people who run the IT systems, and the technology, make work easy and possible:

Gregory Tromp, IT Supervisor, Divi & Tamarijn All-Inclusive Resorts

Gregory has been working for Divi Resorts for over 10 years, moving up the ladder to become an IT supervisor in 2019. During the pandemic, he introduced contactless systems to create a safer environment for guests and employees. Gregory is well-respected by his team, peers, and executive management, for his creative ideas, energy, communications skills, and efforts on behalf of his community.

Our housekeepers, our behind the scenes heroes who keep it clean and safe

Genise Boisrond, Public Areas Supervisor, The Ritz Carlton, Aruba

Genise is a dedicated and passionate individual who has been working at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba for the past two years. She started her career at the hotel as a contractor in the housekeeping department, but in 2019 she became a public area attendant.  Genise is organized, efficient, and consistent, collaborating with colleagues and willingly helping in all areas. In 2019, she was the winner of the resort’s 5-Star award.

Paola Thielman, Housekeeping Manager, Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort,

When the Mill Resort was converted into a Courtyard by Marriott, Paola was promoted from housekeeper to lead supervisor and swiftly achieved the position of housekeeping supervisor, and later housekeeping manager. Paola is a role model for her department, a positive force, which was of particular importance during the pandemic. She continuously looks for solutions, managing to maintain an optimistic attitude, and terrific smile, while gently encouraging her peers, at all opportunities.

Daniel J. Quandus, Assistant Executive Housekeeper/ Hygiene Team Leader, Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort

Daniel has been working for the Hyatt Regency for the past nineteen years and has ample experience in several departments such as Recreation, Security, Front Office, and Laundry. Daniel is a dedicated and charismatic leader, always committed to supporting his colleagues. He is open to new ideas, opportunities, and is always part of the solution. He surely showed what he was made of during the pandemic, by keeping spirits up and work ongoing.

AHATA could not host an award ceremony of this magnitude without the support of sponsors: Caribbean Mercantile Bank, Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, De Palm Corporation, Tropical Bottling Company, and Gianni’s Group.

A great thank you is hereby sent to the volunteering students of EPI HORECA, and the master of ceremony Larissa Bermudez. A heartfelt thanks to AHATA’s dedicated staffers, Vanessa and Laura, for their hard work and genuine care.

The luncheon at the Hyatt Regency served as the official tourism industry award ceremony recognizing the extraordinary efforts of top employees, and their commitment to service, resulting in significant contributions to a productive economy and a successful tourism industry in 2021.

All honorees and guests were met with a welcome drink when seated Aruba’s National Anthem was played. As a delicious lunch was served by the Hyatt Regency Food & Beverage crew, a loop of Aruba images was projected on the main screen, along with event sponsor logos. The program proceeded with a short congratulatory address by the Minister of Tourism and Public Health. Each honoree received a certificate and gift during the ceremony, which was followed by short interviews for social media.

AHATA is already looking forward to the 2022 edition of the award ceremony, as the island is projected to recover 85% of its volume of business, in comparison to 2019, and will require a team effort of the industry to propel the island forward, with the key to success being courteous, responsive and professional employees.

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December 16, 2021
Rona Coster