Dutch Treat

By Conn, Earl L. | The Saturday Evening Post, March-April 1997 | Go to article overview

Dutch Treat


Conn, Earl L., The Saturday Evening Post


Winter-weary vacationers are treated royally on Aruba, a booming outpost of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A tanned and muscular bodybuilder sprinted toward the beach, eager to cool down after his morning workout at a nearby fitness center. Along with everyone else in the Palms Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Aruba, Mike, the busboy, was impressed. "I'm going to look like that in two years," stated the teenager, flexing his already bulging biceps. He could say this with assurance because he recently had won an island bodybuilding competition.

Both Mike and his native Aruba share determination and confidence. Only Aruba is flexing its tourism muscles even faster--like right now. The island, a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is one of the Caribbean's hottest' destinations. Scores of cruise ships drop anchor weekly at the capital city port of Oranjestad. Almost 650,000 people arrived by air last year at the Queen Beatrix International Airport, many on charters from the United States. (Miami is 2 1/2 hours away; New York City, about 4 hours.) Visitors come from as far away as Russia; Canada is a steady market, and the United States is still the major supplier of tourists--60 percent of all who visit the island.

What is the attraction of this tiny royal outpost? Part of it has to do with the red carpet that Arubans love to roll out for guests. They enjoy being good hosts and approach hospitality as a team They're in it together--the Aruba Tourism Authority, the hotel association, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, service personnel--and all are dedicated to providing a tourist friendly environment.

Melissa, the young waitress, went all out to please. Unsure of her English, she asked in Spanish if the diners had completed their meals. They signaled they had not, so she asked, "How do you say it in English?" Told that the word was "finished," she repeated it several times, smiled, and left the table, ready to ask her next customer at the right moment: "Are you finished? …

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