Teen Travel Examined in the Wake of the Natalee Holloway Disappearance. Aruba has become the face of (un)safe Travel
“You have to be quite careful taking kids anywhere … in this world.” We want to make sure we’re able to keep kids safe if we’re bringing them anywhere.”
In the wake of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, many are questioning the safe travel of teenagers. The above quote one would think would be attributed to Beth Twitty, in one of her many speeches she gives warning teens and college students of the dangers they face traveling home and abroad. However, it is not. It was said by Elinor Freedman, principal of Wakefield High School.
“As an educator, I don’t recommend parents sending their sons and daughters on these (non-school) trips,” said Elinor Freedman, principal of Wakefield High School. “Especially now, in light of things like Natalee Holloway.“
Bill Chetwynd, president of the School Committee also went on to say:
“Personally, he wouldn’t recommend trips without parental or school supervision.” “The last thing I would ever want to happen is some kids in Wakefield disappear when they went on a trip – or any kids. Especially in a foreign country.”
Like it or not, Aruba has become the face of the safety issues that face teens and college students in America. It is no small accomplishment or a badge of honor to actually be referenced in the same sentence as 9-11 when it comes to altering the way one travels.
Across the country, student travel was re-examined after the events of 9/11. It has been further scrutinized since the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teen who went missing almost a year ago during a post-graduation trip to Aruba – a trip that wasn’t sanctioned by the school, although more than 100 teens participated.
Do those in Aruba, the travel, hotel and tourism associations and the government officials really not understand the impact of how they have handled the Natalee Holloway investigation? It was one thing for a tourist to go missing in Aruba, it was quite a different event to see how the investigation was botched, intentionally or not. It was still quite another story to watch and listen to those in charge insult and blame the victim and her family. Aruba … WAKE UP! You are being mentioned in the same breathe as 9-11 and not by any Holloway or Twitty family member.
As in the case of 9-11, Americans took for granted their safety and assumed such a terrorist attack could never happen in the United States. Such acts of terror only existed in the Middle East or in Europe. Although not on the same scale, Americans took the same safety assumptions for granted as well when they went on vacations.
However, why wouldn’t American tourists drop their guard when they went on vacation and were told that Aruba was safe? For too many years we just looked the other way, not because a Caribbean island vacation spot may have been safe, but because nothing had ever happened. Or we should say, nothing had been reported to have happened. The law of averages had not caught up yet. Still today we are told that it is a safe island, Carlos N’ Charlies is a safe tourist spot even as drugs are sold outside on the streets and that the beaches are safe as we learn that there were preditors on the beaches that police cared to do nothing about.
What obligation does Aruba have to tell potential tourists the truth? What is the real drinking and gambling ages? Better yet, what is really enforced so that a parent can actually make a proper decision on letting their children go? What really is the crime rate? It can’t be zero.
There is a reason why tourism continues to decline in Aruba at her airport. From the third and fourth quarter of 2005 to first quarter of 2006 the Beatrix Airport in Aruba has been in constant decline, -3.5%, -7.4% and 12.8% respectively. This does not just happen. Such negative numbers are caused and are a reaction to events. While the rest of the Caribbean is seeing numbers rise, Aruba is in free-fall. Hopefully there are some serious minded people in Aruba that will get to the root of the problem instead of blaming the media or the family for these events. Hopefully it will be done for the Aruban people’s sake. By the same token it may be time for the Aruban people to start asking those in charge, what the hell is going on?
For those that think that the Natalee Holloway mystery of her disappearance just goes away, you are sorely mistaken. That Aruba just forgets about it and puts it behind them? Impossible.
Aruba is now the poster child for the groundswell talk of safety for American travel. A title some eleven months after the disappearance of Natalee Holloway that has been well earned. How does the stigma that Aruba has go away? It has so many layers to it that it is almost impossible for it to do so. First, Natalee Holloway goes missing on Aruba that claims to be safe. Second, we see an investigation that was either incompetent, corrupt or both. Third, preferential treatment being given to the home town boys. Fourth, an unwillingness to ask for help by the outside until it was too late. And it goes on and on.
Answer me this Aruba, how does it get better without finding and bringing to justice those that were behind the disappearance of Natalee? High schools and Colleges across the country have made travel safety a priority topic of discussion. Natalee Holloway and her disappearance have become part of the lexicon of everyday talk in America.
Prior to the terrible first quarter airport numbers from Aruba, Dave Holloway’s book “Aruba : The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise” had not even been released yet. We are coming upon the one year anniversary of Natalee’s disappearance that will surely focus on just how little that has been accomplished in Aruba and the major impact that Natalee’s disappearance has had.
Beth Twitty has begun an effort to inform others of the perils that could occur so that they may learn from her and Natalee’s misfortune with Beth’s International Safe Travels Foundation.
“I pray that your parents never have to experience my pain,” Twitty told the UA students in her audience. “It’s not too late for you.”
Aruba, you have a problem. This story is not going away, nor is Aruba as being the poster child of what can go wrong while traveling in a foreign country because the disappearance of Natalee Holloway is greater than Natalee herself. Natalee Holloway is the 21st century face of missing persons. What her family did to keep this story in the news so that a police investigation would not wind up like so many other one’s before it swept under the carpet was a lesson to all in perseverance and determination. The Holloway’s and Twitty’s re-wrote the book on how families need to deal with the media and law enforcement to get answers.
Every time a missing person story is brought up there is a comparison to Natalee Holloway. Every time there is a botched, bungled or purposeful corruption within a missing persons story there will be a comparison to Natalee. The Natalee Holloway story going away? Not a chance.
How can the Natalee Holloway story go away? Aruba, get justice for Natalee!