At barely 20 miles long and six miles across at its widest point, Aruba may be small, but what it lacks in square miles it more than makes up for in terms of its wealth of offerings for meeting planners and attendees. “Everything is close by,” says Hal Davis, North America sales manager for the Aruba Convention Bureau. “You don’t have to take very long to get anywhere. And you have plenty of time for leisure — to be able to have down time and just enjoy this beautiful island.”
Part of that natural beauty includes the famous stretch of beaches on the island’s western shore: Palm and Eagle beaches. Their ultra-soft white sand and turquoise-blue water are ideal for swimming and sunning, and together earned them the spot of the No. 2 best beach in the world according to TripAdvisor’s 2012 Traveler’s Choice rankings for beach destinations.
Exquisite beaches aren’t the only natural offering that Aruba possesses, says Davis. “I like to tell planners that you get three islands — white-sand Caribbean beaches; a desert in the middle that looks like you’re in Scottsdale, Arizona; and a back side of the island that is very rocky, with cliffs, huge winds, and huge swells,” he says. That variety of landscapes gives planners a tremendous amount of flexibility when planning excursions or outdoor events for their meetings groups, from snorkeling and four-wheel-drive tours to swimming in hidden natural pools and horseback riding.
Snorkeling, in particular, says Davis, is unique in Aruba, thanks to the abandoned MS Antilla shipwreck at Palm and Eagle beaches. “You don’t typically get to snorkel among a wreck like that,” says Davis. “Because of that ship, the Palm Beach coastline is wind blocked, so it stays nice and calm and we don’t have high waves, making it perfect for sunset sails, too.”
Because of Aruba’s compact size, says Davis, the island exudes a warm, hospitable welcome throughout its shores. “The whole island is like your resort,” he adds. “People are so friendly and so easy to communicate with. They speak Dutch, Spanish, English, and their native language, Papiamento.” Davis adds, “Our motto for Aruba is ‘One Happy Island,’ and that’s really reflected in the people’s DNA — they are so friendly and nice and welcoming.”
Its location — and climate — is also ideal for hosting meetings and events. Aruba is not located within the “Hurricane Belt.” Midsummer trade winds cool the island during the hottest days of the summer.
An equally sunny outlook applies to the newest developments on the island, including the addition of a brand-new The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, which will occupy a prime spot on Palm Beach when it opens in early 2014. It will feature 320 rooms and 55 suites, all with oceanfront balconies, as well as a 7,500-square-foot ballroom and a 600-square-foot executive boardroom. Guests will be able to take advantage of championship golf and water sports.
In January of last year, the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa, completed an extensive $30-million renovation of its three towers. Originally built in the 1950s, the high-rise hotel underwent a two-year refurbishment of all 355 of its guest rooms and suites, open-air lobby and reception area, meeting facilities, dining venues, and casino. All of the resort’s meeting spaces — which combine for a total of more than 39,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space — now have upgraded A/V capabilities and all guest rooms now have 42-inch flat-screen TVs, new plush bedding, and computerized climate control.
Also undergoing upgrades is the 357-room Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino, which recently renovated its ZoiA Spa and its outside deck.
With so many new developments and additions, Davis says, he expects to see more meetings groups in Aruba going forward. “My traffic has probably been increasing by about 10 percent from 2012 to what we’re expecting in 2013, and the properties are seeing increases, too.”