Aruba’s Premier talks about investment, safety and tourism

Prime Minister of Aruba

Nelson Oduber took over as Prime Minister following a landslide victory for his People's Electoral Movement Party (MEP) at the polls in September last year. The MEP won 12 out of 21 Parliamentary seats making it the first single political party to take control of the island since the early 1980s.

What kind of foreign investment is Aruba looking for?
We are working to improve the service and quality that we offer—this is the direction we are going in now. We are looking for investors for premium hotels in the private sector. We want to invest more in our communications, airport and service industry. We recently took a $100 million investment commitment. Announcing investment like that is great, it inspires confidence. Last week I had investors interested in Aruba from Hong Kong. This is impressive. They see the potential in Aruba. They want to come with a different concept of tourism.

Why should U.S. investors come to Aruba as opposed to any other Caribbean island?
We have a lot of American investors already on the island. We are associated with the European Union through being part of the Dutch Kingdom. That relationship is important. We can introduce ourselves easily in the European market. Our good relations with the U.S. and the EU give us the capacity to act as a bridge of markets. We speak their languages—the whole administration of the private sector is conducted in English. We have good infrastructure, water, electricity, airport and telecommunications, and our education is very high level. We will also continue to offer incentives to investors.

Is Aruba a safe destination for foreign investment?
It is important for a country to have political stability if it is to attract investors. Aruba is very safe and stable. We are the only party in the history of Aruba that ever won a majority without a coalition. Investments are secure here. We have supervision of our financial sector and we can use the Dutch supreme court. Our relationship with the Dutch is crucial. They guarantee our financial system and human rights. Both international and local investors are well treated here. You can bring your money in and take it out of the country without any problems. Integrity is a key factor. We have been working on this with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Integrity is what the world is looking for and this is what we offer.

How important is tourism and what is being done to develop the sector?
Tourism is the most important pillar of Aruba’s economy. We have to work with the private sector, to promote and market Aruba. We have to differentiate ourselves from the other Caribbean islands. We have to work on our identity, culture and heritage. Arikok park, archaeological sites, marine biodiversity, art and culture are all important. We need to show our tourists things other than the sea, sun and beaches of Aruba. We will have a new golf course and we are looking for new investment to create something like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to enhance the area and attract other businesses to the island. We want to stress safety. We are a good product as a tourist destination because of our relations with the United States, the Latin American and Caribbean region and the Dutch Kingdom. All these create a perfect combination on a small island with happy people. Investors and tourists need to know this.

How important is quality?
We are focusing primarily on higher quality investments and diversification. Hotel rooms will increase in terms of quality rather than quantity. We want to attract and satisfy people who will pay $400 a night for a room, not $50. We are working to attract income earners of more than $75,000. Service must be assured if such high-standing guests are to come here and become repeated visitors to the island. Developing conference tourism is also part of our plan.