Boycott Watch
June 15, 2006
The Other Aruba Cover-up
By Fred Taub, President, Boycott Watch
A version of this article was posted at World Net Daily,
Summary:Aruba Tourism is down despite claims of record tourism - the boycott against Aruba is working.
   Since the disappearance of Natalee Holloway on May 30, 2005 in Aruba, there have been several calls for boycotts, including from Alabama's governor. Boycott Watch is reviewing the status of the boycott after one year, asking what are the real results, if any, of these boycott calls?

   While starting to research the effects of this boycott, three things were readily apparent. First, Arubans are upset that boycotts were declared. Second, Aruba has a vested interest in making sure no such boycotts affect them, especially from the US which accounts for about two-thirds of Aruba's visitors. Third, Aruba is a country that primarily lives on the tourist industry.

   As such, we could not rely on data supplied by Aruban tourism officials since they have a vested interest in reporting record-breaking tourism. We should, however, still expect Aruba to report accurately, especially when Aruba is asking people to believe what they say in the Natalee Holloway case. As such, we started looking at official Aruba statements, but we did not take them as definitive statements. Rather, we chose to verify those statements and then verify the numbers with tourism data from other sources. In essence, we expect Aruba to be totally honest and to report accurate tourism numbers, but we had to be sure.

   Aruba's official tourism website,, touts how Aruba is safe and a wonderful place to visit, and we are not doubting that. We are strictly looking at tourist data and possible effects from an Aruba boycott. The Aruba website has a section dedicated to Natalee Holloway that you can find below the "Ike Cohen's 95th Birthday Charity Fair and Online Auction" icon. That placement must make sense only in Aruba, especially considering how Natalee's disappearance has been in the world news for over a year and few Aruba tourists have the slightest clue as to who Ike Cohen is and most probably do not care.

   One article appearing on the website is from former US Congressman and now talk show host Bob Barr titled "Aruba Boycott A Lost Cause," in which Barr called this consumer action "not a real boycott." In his article, Barr stated, "Only the president can direct that U.S. citizens, whether they hail from Alabama or Maine, are not permitted to travel to a particular event or country." While that is true, we are not talking about a government action, rather a consumer action by people who are upset at how the Holloway case is being handled. Tourists do occasionally get killed or go missing in many countries, that is not the issue. The issue is how Aruba has been handling the case, which is what sparked a consumer boycott.

   In a USA Today article dated October 30, 2005, Myrna Jansen, the managing director of the Aruba Tourism Authority was quoted as saying "now everybody knows Aruba" boasting that Aruba is more popular than ever, and even claimed a 10% increase in tourism, much of it from repeat tourists. Just about a week later, in a November 08, 2005, article posted at, Jansen claimed Aruba's reputation "remains intact," and claimed increased US visitors and higher hotel occupancy forecasts over the next year.

   The Belize Tourism Board has reported a drop in Aruba tourism from 2000 until 2003, with an increase in 2004 for both air and cruise ship visitors of about 80,000, a significant increase after years of steady drops. While trying to obtain more information about current hotel occupancy rates, Boycott Watch discovered something strange: while Aruba hotels have previously reported their occupancy rates, no such information was available for any Aruba hotels over the last year, thus raising questions as to what the actual occupancy rates are.

   Is Aruba trying to hide something? Apparently yes. In 2006, Aruba backtracked from reports of double-digit tourism increases. In an article at dated March 31, 2006, Aruba reported a modest 0.6% overall 2005 tourism increase, which is a far cry from the steady 9-10% numbers stated earlier in the year. If all the reports are true, then Aruba must have had a sudden tourism crash in the peak winter tourist season, but that does not make sense if we are to believe the 9% and 10% numbers Aruba originally reported. If that really did happen, Aruba would have had a massive sudden drop in tourism, leaving hotels at 50% or less occupancy during the peak tourism season, which would have made headline news in the travel industry, but that did not happen.

   Why the sudden reporting reversal? Even after no longer publishing hotel occupancy rates in 2005, the truth of the state of the Aruba economy was soon to come out from a source that official Aruba public relations spokespeople could not silence. Despite the fact that Aruba backtracked its reporting, it turns out that Aruba still kept the spin up, reporting an overall increase in travel business, but the Aruba government was not ready for the report that was to come next.

   A May 15, 2006 press release by Aruba's main bank, the Centrale Bank Van Aruba , states "The Centrale Bank van Aruba (the Bank) mentions in its Bulletin of the fourth quarter of 2005 that available information indicate a reduction in business activities in the fourth quarter of 2005, mainly brought about by a dwindling performance in the tourism sector. According to the Business Perception Survey conducted by the Bank businesses reported being less optimistic about the current state of the economy, and even pessimistic about the short-term economic outlook. The tourism sector showed a negative outcome. The number of stay-over visitors and their nights spent on the island fell by 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively. This resulted in a 2 percent decline in gross tourism receipts, while the hotel occupancy rate recorded a 2.2 percentage points decline to 77.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005."

   While Aruba stated a less than stellar 4th quarter, the overall economic data reported by the bank does not match the overall tourism numbers.

   A 2.2% occupancy rate decline may not sound like much, but if that was only in the fourth quarter, it could not possibly be from a single quarter when the same report states "the net international reserves of the monetary sector decreased … and were … 9 percent lower than a year earlier." In other words, a 2.2% decline from a 10% gain would still mean a 7.8% overall increase, yet the bank reported an overall economic slowdown. In fact, the bank reported that 2005 was a bad overall tourism year in Aruba. Since Aruba's economy is almost totally based on tourism, Aruba is clearly in a recession that has nothing to do with the economic growth in the rest of the free market world.

   Aruba is obviously concerned with its image and Aruba's bank is primarily concerned how their businesses are doing and making money. Additionally, banks are notorious for reporting their financial status accurately. So, which would you trust more at face value - the tourism PR people or the central bank report?

   While Aruba has had an increase in tourism for several years, there is a definite decline in tourism since the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. While there is no information as to which countries people are not going to Aruba from, and with the US being the islands main tourist source that now has a consumer boycott against Aruba, one can easily conclude the drop in tourism is from the US. Even with Aruba's campaigns to increase tourism from other countries, Aruba has still not compensated for the loss of US tourist dollars. Thus, the Aruba boycott is working.

   Art Nittskoff, the chief travel agent for Gamble America who specializes in vacation travel reported that although he has never sold many Aruba vacations because there are no direct flights from Cleveland to Aruba, people he spoke to in the travel industry said they saw no perceivable change in Aruba travel over the past year. This would be consistent with both Aruba not having a 10% increase in tourism, as well as a 2.2% decline in travel to Aruba as such numbers are small on a per-travel-agency level, but would be very noticeable on the overall travel tourism dollars in Aruba, which relies on those dollars as the cornerstone of its economy.

   On the justice front, Aruba as a nation has just been caught in a lie. While Aruba has been reporting record tourism, they backtracked poorly when backed against a wall. Boycott Watch asks the question: If Aruba covered-up actual tourism numbers and claimed record tourism to the court of public opinion, did they also cover-up anything in their statements in the Natalee Holloway disappearance?

   Fred Taub is a boycott consultant and the President of Boycott Watch which monitors and reports about consumer boycotts, and Divestment Watch which exposed the illegal nature of the divest-from-Israel campaign as well as why divestment is bad for the US and is anti-peace.

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