(Vanderbilt – ‘06)
The investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway has proved to be the ultimate “catch 22” for Aruban authorities and the tourism industry (AHATA). Project a positive image at all cost and act like nothing ever happened to to preserve the dollars that come in through tourism vs. revealing the truth, provide a competent investigation and make solid arrests no matter who is implicated. Activities as to what actually goes on in Aruba are never to be shown or mentioned to the tourists.
A Caribbean island vacation spot where tourism takes precedent over the competent investigation of the disappearance of a tourist that came and paid to come to Aruba. The way in how this was handled and continues to be should be a written and visual aid to the rest of the Caribbean as a “what not to do” book.
One of the interesting by-products of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway is the active involvement of schools, teachers, parents and students in discussing safety and Spring Break trips this year. Beth Twitty in her “Save Yourself” tour points out the many pit falls and ways to maintain safety for students traveling abroad or in the United States.
Contrast that with what Aruba has done in response to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Has anything changed how business is conducted at Carlos N’ Charlies? Are they still serving minors? Are the bar tenders still serving people to the point of over-intoxication? Are the casions still allowing underage people in the casinos, let alone gambling in them?
A few casinos in Aruba are open 24 hours a day. Hours vary seasonally, so please check before making plans. No one under 18 is allowed in the casinos.
How really have things changed on Aruba? What have they done?
Other than the fact that the tourism industry has decided to throw millions of dollars to gloss over what occurred? Other than the fact that they have hired professional “spinners” in an effort to deflect and misrepresent all the failings of the investigation of Natalee? Individuals from the media, the government and from the Aruban Strategic Communications Task Force have all provided continual excuses to the investigation and searches.
During the ten months of the investigation Gerold Dompig, then lead investigator, made accusations that the family hampered the investigation and forced the ALE into prematurely arresting the three suspects. He would later in a CBS 48 Hours interview accuse the victim Natalee Holloway dying of a drug overdose.
What message does this send to all potential tourists that would ever contemplate visiting Aruba or that have in the past? Story after story has been written regarding how the disappearance of Natalee Holloway has affected tourism in Aruba. To the contrary, it was not the disappearance that affected tourism. It was the manner in how the investigation was done and the way in which millions of people saw a family of a missing girl treated. Taking responsibility for ones actions may be difficult, but Aruba has no one else to blame for the decline in tourism other than those in Aruba that looked the other way and put their head in the sand.
Aruban officials who put tourism over the disappearance are to blame. Those who said to Dave Holloway, “Go to Carlos N’Charlies and have a beer, she will show up” are to blame. Those that refused to take this case responsibly and investigate this case with vigor no matter who the finger pointed at are to blame. Those that could not even order a search of the Van der Sloot properly are to blame. A family demanding answers, desperate for any clues as to their missing daughter are hardly to blame. That is to be expected.
How simple a concept is it to AHATA (Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association); solve the crime and all goes away. However, that was only possible in the beginning. Now some ten months later that is no longer an option.
After ten months we now learn that Aruba’s one response is that they will put surveillance cameras up on the beaches and other areas. This is the answer? Talk about a band-aid on a broken leg. I am sure tourists are going to want to be photographed while one the beach. As the confidential information from police files in this investigation has managed its way on to the TV, one can only wait for such video tape of people to be broadcast across the internet.
This has truly become a facade as the local media in Aruba no longer even covers the story of Natalee Holloway to present it to the tourists. Long time tourists that have recently come back from Aruba have stated that during their stay there was not one mention of Natalee Holloway in the publications that were given to the hotels.
Think about the dichotomy of the following fact. The on-line version of Aruba Today (English version) rarely references any mention of Natalee Holloway or the recent activity of searches. A newspaper marketed to American tourists and no mention of Natalee Holloway. However, the editor of Aruba Today is on nightly on cable TV discussing the facts of the present day to day situation of the investigation and searches foe Natalee Holloway. Gone are the Natalee Holloway “missing posters” from the store shops. Even the Aruban Strategic Communications Task Force website, Aruba Truth, rarely if ever updates anything with up to date posts. Just three posts since February 23.
One would like to think that Aruban officials understand that after ten months the story of Natalee Holloway is not going away. The only way that Aruba regains its image is to provide credibility into the investigation of the disappearance of Natalee. Real credibility. That would mean requesting help from Holland and the FBI. It would also mean bring back Texas EquuSearch and allow land and sea searches. The nepotism and special favors that have gone on in this investigation must end.
Without credibility there is no end for this situation in Aruba. It is as simple as that.