Published On: Mon, Jul 30th, 2018

Curaçao, what it could have been

Arthur DonkerI have been working in our tourism industry for close to 50 years and have seen a lot, heard a lot and have experienced a lot. I have met some very good people that tried to push our tourism with all they got and also have also met idiots that thought that a promotion trip consisted of parties, chasing women and trying to eat everything that could breathe. I have also met civil servants, semi-civil servants, government heavies and politicians that behaved shamelessly that couldn’t even use a knife and fork and embarrassed us.

I have survived it all and have kept many happy memories. When I see now that they are attempting, in a desperate move, to save Punda and came up with the idea to make it a Duty Free Zone, I have to think back some 30 to 40 years ago that somebody from the CHATA (Curacao Hotel And Tourism Association) already came up with that idea but that it got stuck on bureaucracy.

Somebody also came up with the idea to change the law that would allow the buildings in Punda have an outside access to the 2nd and 3rd floors of the buildings by means of a staircase so that the owners of the buildings could change them into apartments so that more people would be living in Punda and make the town more lively. That was 30 to 40 years ago. When van der Valk wanted to take over the old Plaza Hotel, there were a lot of people against it because they didn’t want “backpack tourism” and topless grandmas on our beaches because they didn’t spend a dime and it would be bad for the morale. Van de Valk came and started the Dutch tourism influx for us but did not get the cooperation from KLM and started to bus everybody to Belgium to fly them to Curacao with Sobel Air. Every week a planeload full of Dutch tourists that spend more than the cheapo Americans what made the storekeepers very happy because of all the Euro’s they left behind.

Some 30 years ago I submitted a request for a permit for a café on the Handelskade and was refused by the then lieutenant governor Wilsoe because (swear to God) he said that in case of an emergency the people would be jumping in the Annabay! I said that salt water and frizzy hair don’t go together and I never heard from him again! That is nowadays Iguana Café! I submitted a request to organize every Saturday a flea market in the Wilhelmina park and then the week after on the Brionplein what was refused by the man of the Special Services because he said (swear to God) it would not contribute to the atmosphere of Willemstad and I said but there is no atmosphere in Willemstad. Never again to be heard of. Now it’s full of cheapo stalls selling Haitian crap on Brionplein as well as around the old market in Punda.

We’re sitting on a gold mine the only thing is we don’t see it and see obstacles as soon as somebody comes up with an idea. Nepotism in everything that happens here or still has to happen is killing us in the field of tourism, We prefer to go the direction of amateurism instead of class, quality, service and knowledge. Lions Dive Hotel was the first on to demand from all his employees to take a dive course so that they could relativate with the guests. Never had another hotel done that and it was a golden move! What the farmer does not know he won’t eat (Dutch saying) that is the motto here, there is no structural policy or control, a snack bar that steals a piece of land can keep it because they invested in the expansion, a shack without a building permit can stay open because the owner is the daughter of a policeman, everybody with a wooden shack in their backyard can call it a B & B and the complaints can go to later the tourism bureau.

When I hear of all these new ideas I say why didn’t all these ideas go through years ago and I come back to the same answer, bureaucracy, nepotism, corrupt politicians and last but not least dumb politics.

I keep laughing on this rock because every now and then people approach me asking me about who did what and who was what and they all look surprised when I tell them that we could have been bigger than Aruba!

By Arthur Donker

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