ORANJESTAD - The Chamber of Commerce (CoC) announced that this year 75 fewer new companies were registered compared to 2015. In the past year, ten companies closed their doors and this number continues to grow. Furthermore illegals, whether or not ambulatory, are the greatest threat to the local economy, operations of primarily Venezuelan foreigners .
This announced the Chamber of Commerce at a press conference earlier this week. "Entrepreneurs shew that the economy is not going well, and therefore they do not take risks. They keep the money in their pockets and await further developments, "says director Sonja Velthuizen.
Decline on Main Street
This year 461 new companies registered at the Chamber, whereas last year there were 536. "Most of the companies who register are in the agricultural sector, construction companies and now many contractors developments on Citgo," the Commercial Director explains. "The companies that are closed are usually hair salons and shops in the Main Street."
Restaurants also belong to the group to stop their operations. "Many restaurants will close within one year after opening. However, this is not due to the quality of the product they deliver, but a lack of good management, "said Velthuizen. "We may be able to help through workshops, such as the forthcoming Business Plaza Get Started." This event takes place on Saturday, July 2nd and is designed for all companies that have a so-called Business ID. The Chamber gives more detailed information on this in the coming weeks.
The danger is that our local economy is something that can not be solved in the short term. "We have already had discussions with the grooming industry. It is clear that foreigners who illegally offer their products and services for very little money, are the greatest danger for local businesses, "said Velthuizen. "In the next time we go to each sector in discussion to identify what are the concerns. Then we deal with the government to sit around the table to arrive at a plan of action. "
I don't think the paid parking has much to do about the declining businesses. If you go on or walk the route of the tram car from the cruise ships into the heart of town, these is where the businesses are failing. I walked the entire line and near the mall is where there are many higher end stores where Zares Department store just opened. I saw no customers in these high end stores and many were closed completely. If you continue to walk the tracks, you come to many lower end stores that seemed to have a few customers. The part I didn't like in this area is that several stores had their music blasting and that would scare customers away.
My own opinion is that these stores were gambling on having passengers from the cruise ships hop on the tram so they can be taken to their stores. That's not happening. If anything, the cruise ship passengers are just taken the tram for a free tour of downtown and maybe hopping of for an ice cream. (The tram - don't get me started on the tram. What a waste. Could have been so much better with a portable train on tires like we have in Wildwood Crest on the Jersey Shore. It could have been taken anywhere in Aruba and not stuck on the tracks that squeal).
If we take the cruise ships out of the equation for the moment, the fact that the shops close at 6pm is an issue, imo. Most people are at the beach during the day and would much prefer to wander off and shop in the evening. I know we would go downtown more if we could shop and then go for dinner in the downtown area. During the few days before Christmas when the downtown mall is open past 6pm we do take advantage of the later hours.
With respect to the parking, regardless of the cost, I do believe that it is somewhat of a deterrent from coming downtown. If your businesses are struggling then don't put impediments to hamper their success.
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As I said on a couple of other threads, paid parking will not necessarily cause people to quit shopping in town but the sure threat of having your vehicle booted or towed for overstaying your fee will. Most people don't have a problem paying for parking. It would have been so much more visitor friendly and cost effective to just ticket those cars. Collecting the fines would not be difficult even with tourists. Every rental car has a V tag and the fine could be added to your rental fee by the government or they could add a parking fee to every rental. For citizens even easier. Just pull their tag until they pay. One other thing I mentioned is about all the shops closing. These businesses open with the belief that all those tourists can be counted on to spend money in shops while on vacation. This is not even close to true. When these shops open, they should plan to be able to make a profit without tourist dollars. In other words, local customers must also buy from them. Unless you sell souvenirs or food, chances are most tourists are not going to buy from you. Tourists bring everything they need with them in most cases.
We've actually liked the paid parking situation and been more inclined to go downtown knowing there would be spots available.
I suspect it's a red herring in the "closing businesses" equation. A lot of the shops downtown only appeal to tourists and cruise passengers so there's limited demand.
It's too bad the government didn't consider an LRT (light rapid transit) connecting the north end of the island to Oranjestad and the south end instead of the trolley - people might have been more inclined to move around more if it was easier to get from the hotel areas.
I wonder how much of that is just the ebb & flow of businesses. I remember walking around there many years ago where every other store (or more) was vacant. Then a few years ago when they where just finishing the track for the trolley it seemed like every store was occupied and open for business.
I think it mostly has to do with tourists having the availability to find everything they need near the beach areas; Souvenirs, clothes, food, drink. Years ago we would go downtown to get beer and shop since the only shopping along the beach properties was actually in the hotels. Now, you can find almost everything you want or need without having to go downtown. The malls, shops, carts across from Holiday Inn, Hilton and even the new Alhambra will provide any souvenirs, jewelry, clothing you may look for, and you can find food and drink at Superfoods. With people complaining about losing beach area when cruise ships come to port, it sounds like cruisers want to go to the beach, not downtown.
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As an avid shopper, I think the bottom line is that the stores along main street are really not that good. I mean you have your basic souvenir stores, T-shirt shops and unless you are looking for good jewelry, those stores, too. but short of that, there really aren't any stores with unique things. Maybe if this is your first time shopping there you may pick up a thing or two but really, if i can't shop there (and I can shop anywhere), then you know there's not much. so i don't think its the parking meters that are causing the downfall. I think its the type of stores..