It’s been a year since Aruba opened their borders to travelers, and Recommend’s managing editor had the opportunity to chat with Ronella Croes, the CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority to learn all about what’s new on the island.

Michelle Marie Arean (MMA):What new programs are on the island now?
Ronella Croes (RC):
It has been exactly a year since Aruba re-opened its borders in the summer last year, and we are thrilled to report that arrivals are now on track with pre-pandemic numbers. It was our government’s swift reaction to the pandemic that helped put the destination on the right path. We implemented a host of different tactics very quickly, always leading with safety top of mind. We made sure that our entry protocols reflect market-dictated conditions but also that we communicate them very clearly and make the process as seamless as possible for visitors. For instance, Aruba was the first government to adopt the CommonPass digital health app, enabling travelers on JetBlue flights to Aruba to document their COVID-19 test results.

Aruba was also among the first destinations to roll out an attractive longer stay program for remote workers. There was a clear demand from visitors for longer-term stays, so we introduced the One Happy Workation program in the fall of 2020. The program enables remote workers to stay on the island for up to 90 days with no visa required.

We welcomed the Radisson Blu hotel to our Palm Beach this spring, which added 133 upscale rooms to our destination room portfolio. Additionally, many on-island resorts and partners rolled out upgrades, and over $20M in renovations were completed, keeping Aruba’s tourism offer competitive and attractive to the modern traveler.

MMA: What is your favorite thing to do on the island?
RC:
There are such a wide range of activities to partake in when visiting the island of Aruba, but a hike in Arikok National Park is one of my all-time favorite activities. Other adventure-seekers can also choose to explore the depths of Arikok National Park’s rugged and wild interior during an off-road Jeep Safari tour or by hiking, biking or horseback riding. There are more than 20 sq. miles of wild flora and fauna to explore, and it’s a great way to balance out a day lounging by one of Aruba’s world-famous beaches with some exercise.

MMA: What are travelers heading to Aruba looking to do the most?
RC: A more streamlined entry process with the introduction of Commonpass, having the option of longer-term stay with the One Happy Workation program, and easy access from the eastern coast of the U.S. are just a few things that are resonating with travelers to Aruba right now. And as always, Aruba’s year-round sunny skies outside the hurricane belt, array of wellness activities ranging from kitesurfing to spending a day with pink flamingos, and an overall friendly vibe is what attracts our visitors time and again.

There are a host of new experiences for our visitors too, like the new rooftop infinity pool at Radisson Blu and the Hilton Resort & Casino’s personal Sunset Concierge Experience (introduced this May), which offers guests a catered five-course meal directly on the beach.

MMA: We’re hearing from advisors that many travelers are looking for wellness vacations post quarantine. What wellness-focused programs can advisors suggest to clients on the island?
RC: The One happy island of Aruba is the ideal place to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. From a relaxing day at the beach to an invigorating hike at Arikok National Park, Aruba’s beautiful natural wonders offer a relaxing escape for anyone seeking a wellness vacation. The island’s world-class spas feature soothing Aruban aloe treatments, calming massages, Vichy showers and everything else needed for an indulgent self-care day. Additionally, Aruba boasts the Caribbean’s largest yoga facility, plays host to many wellness retreats and offers a variety of healthy dining options.

For a comprehensive list of Aruba’s most popular wellness activities, see below:

  • Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort: A premier adults-only boutique resort on Aruba’s famous Eagle Beach that offers an extensive wellness program, which includes a wellness-focused concierge and the following activities:
    • Sound Healing: Visitors can meditate on the beach to the soothing and healing vibrations of sounds and music from a certificated instructor, who will guide participants on a journey of inner discovery.
    • Full Moon Yoga: Every month, guests celebrate the mysterious and powerful energy of the full moon on the beach in a ceremony filled with energy yoga, meditation, sacred songs and a drumming circle.
  • Donkey Hugging: Donkey Sanctuary Aruba has put an Aruban twist on the Dutch practice of ‘koe knuffelen,’ or cow hugging, by inviting visitors to relieve stress with a 30+ minute hugging and petting session with their friendliest, loving donkeys
  • Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino: This beachfront high-rise property completed a multimillion dollar renovation in 2020, including Trankilo, a brand new expansive and serene adults-only pool and completely transformed ZoiA Spa. Their offerings include:
    • All-Natural Treatments: ZoiA uses all-natural treatments, pulling from Aruba’s natural landscapes’ minerals, crystals, herbs and oils to create healing treatments to protect, renew and empower guests.
    • Massage den Awa: A gentle form of body therapy performed in the Trankilo adults-only pool for deep relaxation that combines elements of massage, shiatsu, and muscle stretching.
  • The Manchebo Beach Resort: This eco-friendly resort is considered the island #1 wellness resort, providing a tranquil atmosphere where guests will be able to completely decompress.
    • Spa De Sol: At this Caribbean-Balinese open-air retreat guests can choose from a wide selection of individualized treatments, from Lomi Lomi full body massage to restore energetic circulation to a Volcano Mud Body Wrap to flush toxins.
  • Watsu Aquatic Massage: Hosted at the Moreu Facilitation & Healing Center, this water based experience moves a person’s body in a soft way to promote a state of deep relaxation while increasing flexibility of the spine and the nervous system.
aruba
The One Happy Workation package at Hilton Aruba Resort & Casino. (Photo courtesy of Hilton Aruba Resort & Casino.)

MMA: Are you still offering the One Happy Workation program? How’s that going, what’s been the feedback?
RC: Yes, the One Happy Workation program that was introduced last fall is still available to remote workers that are looking for a longer-term vacation experience. Since its launch in September 2020 and through May 2021, more than 10,000 visitors have participated in the program. We are seeing continuous interest in the program, and this is on trend with the fact that most U.S. offices are still either closed or offering hybrid work options. In June, 1,791 visitors who travelled to Aruba came for the purpose of Workation out of 84,592 total visitors, which is 2.1 percent of all visitors. You can find more information about the program on the website at aruba.com/one-happy-workation.

MMA: How are you seeing travel now since the shut down in 2020 for COVID?
RC: As I mentioned, it has been a year since Aruba re-opened its borders last summer, and we’re happy to report that arrivals are now on track with pre-pandemic numbers. Due to our government’s swift reaction to the pandemic, we were able to put the destination on the right path. We implemented a host of different tactics while keeping safety top of mind. We made sure that our entry protocols reflect market-dictated conditions and communicated them very clearly. For instance, Aruba was the first government to adopt the CommonPass digital health app, enabling travelers on JetBlue flights to Aruba to document their COVID-19 test results.

It was very important for Aruba to implement both, a vaccination roll-out for residents, and health and safety protocols for visitors to keep everyone as safe as possible. The vaccination program for Aruba started in February 2021. Approximately 70 percent of Aruba’s total population has already been vaccinated.

MMA: Do travelers currently need to re-test for COVID during their trip?
RC: We strive to make the testing process easy for travelers, so we have a straightforward protocol for arrivals which includes a few components. All visitors are asked to complete our online Embarkation/Disembarkation card, or as we call it the ED Card, to be permitted entry to Aruba. The ED card is all online and should only take about 10 minutes to complete. This is done prior to travel. Then, all visitors, 15 years and older, must take one Molecular COVID-19 test between 72 and 4 hours prior to travel to Aruba. CommonPass users can make use of the Pre-Approved Health Lane.

We have also implemented mandatory Aruba Visitors Insurance to help protect visitors against incurred medical and non-medical expenses if testing positive for COVID-19 during their stay in Aruba. All of this information is available on our website, aruba.com.

MMA: Do you have any education programs, FAMs, webinars where advisors can learn more about Aruba?
RC: I would recommend advisors download the Aruba Health App for an easy way to keep up to date with the COVID-19 regulations in Aruba. Otherwise, advisors can visit aruba.com for updates on deals and offers in Aruba and any new programs or packages from the destination. You can also follow our Instagram or Facebook page to receive ongoing updates.

MMA: If there’s anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to include, please feel free to do so.
RC: We are happy to share that the low fare carrier, Frontier Airlines, has added a new route to Aruba starting this November. Frontier will begin operating a nonstop, once a week flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) on Saturdays, with the inaugural flight scheduled for Nov. 20, 2021.

This new route to Aruba from Miami showcases our destination’s growing importance for the North American market. Queen Beatrix International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the region, and in light of this past year, increased airlift operations are crucial to Aruba’s continued tourism recovery and growth.

We also already talked a bit about Radisson Blu opening in the spring this year, which added over 100 rooms to our destination luxury portfolio, as well as overall upgrades and improvements we saw our partners implement over the past year.

For more inspiration on travel to Aruba, click here.