From left: Interval International Region Manager Resort Sales and Services Samy Gonzalez, Interval International Director for Resort Sales and Service Caribbean and Florida Neil Kolton, ATSA President Ursell Arends and Kahn Communications President Richard Kahn.
ARUBA–The Aruba tourism sector is facing a major challenge unrelated to attracting visitors or airlines. Its major hurdle is attracting young people to the hospitality service sector with its longer hours and working on holidays. The Aruba Timeshare Association (ATSA) is tackling this challenge by involving the youth from as young as possible in learning about experiencing the impact of tourism and timeshare. Island visitors eager to have their own social impact will be drafted in next year via the “Happy Community Initiative.”
A large number of current tourism industry staff is “reaching retirement,” ATSA President Ursell Arends told the International Shared Ownership Investment Conference, hosted by Interval International in Aruba Hyatt Regency on Thursday.
Filling the vacancies left by retirees looks daunting when recent research shows that only 10 per cent of Aruba students want to go into the hospitality industry, according to Arends. This is where “Happy Community” comes in.
The initiative allows timeshare owners to contribute financially or volunteer for social causes. Volunteer tourism is craved more by travellers. This will bring visitors in contact with the local community and the hope is this connection will help to boost interest in the tourism sector. The funds donated by visitors are to be pooled in social programmes and study grants.
ATSA is also actively showcasing career opportunities in the tourism sector to youngsters with its annual Orientation Day. This event brings students into direct contact with resorts, their operations and community impact.
Community involvement also comes in the form of ATSA taking its social obligations seriously. The association financially supports the Red Cross Aruba and holds a board position. This key position allows for the Red Cross to be a first-line responder in times of crisis at home and abroad. The Red Cross was one of the entities deployed to help with recovery on sister Dutch Caribbean island St. Maarten in September 2017 after Hurricane Irma.
ATSA does not underestimate the importance of statistics in planning and highlighting timeshare’s contribution to the economy. The association has a memorandum of understanding with University of Aruba to produce regular reports about the state of the industry.
Becoming environmentally friendlier is another major goal of the association. Its members are encouraged to seek green alternatives.
Timeshare in Aruba accounts for some 40 per cent of the island’s room inventory. Those units see an annual occupancy of some 87 per cent and generate 20 per cent of Aruba’s gross domestic product (GDP). That percentage accounted for US $530 million in 2017.
The 23-year-old ATSA is a fierce lobby for members with government and among members to ensure “ethical standards.” The association also keeps its fingers on the pulse of the legislative process in the country through close cooperation with Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Tourism, the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Aruba Hotel Association.
From a regulatory perspective, ATSA is pushing for the establishment of a beach police outpost on the world-famous Eagle Beach. A beach policy to safeguard and protect Aruba’s main attraction is also in the works.
There is also a lobby for regulation of vacation rentals (Airbnb, etc.). This sharing economy has been cutting into the timeshare and traditional stay-over market without tax and other regulations. There are fears that, if left unregulated, the sharing economy could ultimately damage Aruba’s tourism product.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/81119-aruba-faces-labour-challenge-as-scores-of-workers-retire