It seems like all the focus has been lately in Aruba what effects will the Natalee Holloway investigation have on tourism. Just recently there was an A.M. Digital article, ‘Fewer airline passengers to Aruba in the third quarter of 2005′ and further Aruban tourism concerns, ‘Tourism Officials discuss media coverage of Holloway disappearance’. There was also a rather telling New York Times article entitled, ‘Disappearance Still Weighs on Aruba’s Tourism’.
Lisa and Dan Masciantonio, from Upton, Mass., thought that they would see signs of the investigation into the disappearance of the Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, a case that dominated the cable-news programs throughout the summer. “I expected that I would see posters and ribbons tied around trees, but it seemed to us business as usual,” Ms. Masciantonio said.
Although many Arubans are concerned and consider the event just a tragic one that all wished could be solved, I think what many miss especially those in the tourism industry is just how rather callous it is to continue to reference the effects on tourism rather than focusing on how a missing persons case was handled from the outset and why three suspects remain free today without restrictions.
For Aruban tourism officials to make the following comments does not help their cause in any way. For many people in America its about a missing teenager Natalee Holloway and her parents search for her and search for the facts in her disappearance. It is not about your tourism.
Tourism officials are baffled not only by the case but also by calls to boycott the island. “Never could I have imagined that this could happen to Aruba,” said Marcial Ibarra, the director of business development for the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association. “We put all our effort into tourism. We live for tourism and have nothing else.”
Then to make further excuses as to why there may be more of an impact in their tourism rather than to pinpoint it on the one main event that has occurred and that being the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and the perception of how poorly the case was handled is just denial.
The economy of the United States, oil prices and such will have more impact on any tourism economy than this isolated case,” said Myrna Jansen, the managing director of the Aruba Tourism Authority, responding to questions in an e-mail message. Tourism operators were “extremely disheartened” by any call for a boycott, Ms. Jansen said. “As far as we know, economic boycotts are called against countries that develop nuclear weapons, not against countries who are friends of the United States.”
Mr. Lesker points to big gains in tourism from June 2003 through June of this year, a trend that he admits has started to change. “There is less appetite for booking,” he said, although he suspects that energy costs in the United State are having a bigger impact than the missing-person case.
You really are not helping matters. One would think that individuals within the tourism industry would understand their target market and use some tact rather than make what many think is rather insensitive statements. Is a boycott the answer? Who knows? Dave Holloway seems to think that this is not the time to make such a statement. However, American citizens have a freedom of choice of where to spend their vacation dollars. Those that have always gone to Aruba and or have time sharing will probably always go to Aruba as an island destination. However, there are many first time travelers who only need a doubt in their mind or a cause to support that may choose to go else where. Time will tell, but rather then telling us about how tourism will be affected, solve the missing persons case at hand and please do not forget that people’s perceptions of how things are being handled is important also.