by Jonathan Vatner | December 01, 2005

capital city of Oranjestad

Sherbert hues: A shopping complex in Aruba’s colorful capital city of Oranjestad

Aruba is arguably the most pleasant of Caribbean islands, with its pleasant climate, pleasant people and pleasantly surprising food. Given its 4,000 rooms all within a few miles, it’s also one of the few islands that can host meetings of larger than a few hundred participants.
   This year, Aruba became an even more attractive host with the launch of Meet Aruba, a new marketing effort spearheaded by the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association. This private-sector initiative will work with the existing Aruba Convention Bureau to draw meetings and incentives.

Worth noting
Dec. 31, 2006, is the new date by which all travelers to the Caribbean (except for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) will be required to have a passport. Planners would be wise to recommend that attendees begin the process of getting their documents now.
    Also noteworthy: As of Sept. 13, 2004, meetings in Aruba are tax-deductible for U.S.-based organizations. The move comes as a result of Aruba signing the Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the United States.
    Several new flights are serving the island. American now flies nonstop twice daily from Miami. Continental has added two Saturday flights from the New York City area, including a nonstop from LaGuardia Airport. United introduced three weekly nonstop flights from Chicago, and US Airways now flies four times weekly from Boston.
    Morgan’s Island, a splashy $20 million, 750,000-square-foot water park with a pirate theme, is scheduled to be finished in September 2006.

Hotel updates
The 600-room Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Aruba invested $5 million this year to renovate 200 guest rooms and some public areas. The rest of the resort will be renovated in 2006 and 2007.
    The 391-room Grand Aruba by Occidental reopens Jan. 16, after $20 million in renovations. Highlights include a spa and meeting space for 950 attendees. Before the makeover, the property was an Allegro by Occidental.
    The 360-room Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino is planning to undergo an extensive, whole-property renovation and upgrade, but the details still are being ironed out. The property features 9,245 square feet of meeting space.
    The 358-room Radisson Aruba is building a 15,000-square-foot freestanding spa, with opening anticipated in November 2006. One of the property’s three hotel towers might be renovated into a spa tower within the next few years.
    If the pending deal is finalized, a 220-room Ritz-Carlton would become the island’s first luxury property. The proposed resort would also have a casino.
    Riú Hotels and Resorts recently purchased and now manages the Aruba Grand as an all-inclusive resort with 171 rooms and 4,800 square feet of meeting space.
    Divi Resorts, a collection of all-inclusive properties ideal for small, affordable meetings, is investing in major improvements:
    " The 162-room Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort opened 52 golf villas this year to coexist with its new nine-hole course.The property has plans to open 30 more such villas next year.
    " Guest rooms at the 123-room Divi Dutch Village Beach Resort were thoroughly renovated this year.
    " At the 101-room Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort, plans call for the addition of 140 rooms and suites, an open-air restaurant and a swimming pool. Work should be finished by summer 2007.