Why are you protesting under a tree, said one of my learned friends, yesterday, on the phone, what’s wrong with you, have you got nothing else to do, he asked.
I know, I said, St Regis is a great hotel, but I just wanted to have my voice heard.
Don’t spin your wheels in vain, elucidated my friend, because of this island’s economic situation, we have no choice but grow. The machine has to be fed, we owe so much money that this system has no other option but to balloon, unless the government takes some pretty drastic measures of firing half its bureaucratic machinery, which is not happening, on the contrary, the government has just hired a great number of new people and that’s how the locals like it.
They love government jobs, he explained. They don’t care about the bigger picture, they care about the own immediate environment, and a government job means security and stability, in other words the Aruban dream.
We should be so lucky, he continued, if at the end of a negotiation, still to come, nothing has been agreed or signed yet, Marriott International decides to flag the new real estate as a St Regis. It would further revolutionize the group business on the island the same way the Ritz Carlton did, and people often underestimate what the Ritz Carlton did for Aruba by opening its door.
The St. Regis is perfect, he extolled, it would be small, perhaps 200 rooms, and will cater to a guest with deep pockets, feeding the island’s need for revenue.
Don’t forget he concluded, while the hotels did well in the past two years, the rest of the island is in recession, there is no money and people are suffering. The recent tax hike hit hard, it is just over two points but it cut deeply into the bottom line, merchants couldn’t raise their already-high prices and had to absorb the increase.
Our economy has no money, its spinning on air, the cost of doing business of the island is sky high, finding qualified people is a monumental challenge, the business community is down in the dumps.
While Raiz is hollering ‘no more hotels,’ it should come up with an alternative, a plan, to introduce this ‘high value-low impact tourism growth model,’ veering away from large developments and a ‘volume driven tourism growth model.’
Incentivize local groups to come up with smaller boutique hotel projects, that way the money stays in Aruba and the footprint is minimal, he ruled.