29th Caribbean Tourism Conference: Aruba

THE BAHAMAS–Travel Agent was on site in the Bahamas, at 29th Caribbean Tourism Conference, when Aruba's minister of tourism and transportation, Edison Briesen declared, "It's time to take control of our message after being pummeled by various press outlets in the U.S." Of course, he was referring to the Nathalee Holloway incident, although Briesen was careful not mention her by name. Earlier this month the island hosted the GOGO Worldwide Vacations' Learning Conference. Briesen noted that conference attendees mentioned that booking numbers to Aruba are up 87 percent for 2007 over 2006, proof the island is ready to pull out of its recent downturn. Aruba is unrolling a new advertising campaign, Rumba Aruba, constructed around a catchy jingle and positive imagery.

Briesen also touted the island's slate of tourism projects totaling $230 million. These run the gamut from new hotels and attractions to airport and cruise terminal expansion.

Briesen explained that only 23 percent of U.S. citizens visiting Aruba lack passports, thus the island is not expected to be impacted by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative as severely as some islands. Even so, the island has introduced a travel incentive for visitors from the U.S. who make Aruba the first stamp in their passport. A variety of hotels are offering food and beverage credits as well as car rental vouchers to help take the sting out of the added expense of passport fees.

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