|Ambitious and spirited, Aruba has tackled the business of jet-age tourism with the same gusto it applied in recent years to achieving independence from colonial Dutch rule. Within sight of the Venezuelan coast, this low, arid land, perpetually bathed in sun and swept by warm tradewinds, is now a magnet to travelers who like to vacation in contemporary resorts with every cushy perk at hand, from jetskis to Jacuzzis.
Your clients will find little wildlife and no rainforest on Aruba; annual precipitation totals less than 20 inches, and the interior, though cheerfully speckled with farms and whitewashed villas, is the scrubby cactus-filled landscape known in the Antilles as "cunucu". While one might enjoy a horseback trek or bike ride through these parts, the island's overriding charms are coastal. Along the northwestern coast, from Oranjestad to Manchebo and Palm Beach, glittering high-rise hotels and wind-bowed palms stake claim to broad beaches of exceptionally fine white sand, awash in a turquoise sea. Along this strip, Palm Beach is the most populous and modern. Casinos and discos dominate the night scene, when casual beachwear gives way to more glitzy attire.
The prosperous capital, Oranjestad, caters to shopaholics; while not a free port, its duty is minimal. Historic charm has therefore been largely supplanted by purveyors of French toiletries, Swiss watches, Scottish kilts, and Delft china (though coin connoisseurs fed up with spending can hit the Museo Numismatico). Cultural - and culinary - influences are as international as the wares on sale, and the local dialect, Papiamento, is a whimsical blend of Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Nevertheless, South American ways have infused Aruba's own customs more strongly than those of other nearby islands, so life feels distinctly Latin.
In keeping with the prevalent resort-packages, most hotels offer a variety of sports, complete with instruction, from windsurfing to tennis. Golf is played on an 11-hole course (artfully engineered to accommodate an 18-hole game), scuba and snorkeling are excellent, and the north coast provides challenging currents for daredevil surfers. Travelers who want to sample a unique and deliciously childlike sport should head for Boca Prins and try dune sliding.
Aruba, accessible by way of direct flights from numerous cities, is an ideal choice not only for clients who want a sunstruck Riviera-style vacation but for business travelers in search of the perfect spot for a beachside business getaway. Everywhere, service and amenities are tops.