The citizens of Aruba understand all too well the concept of limits. Located 25 kilometers off the northern coast of Venezuela, the hot, arid climate and a limited supply of fresh water in this Caribbean island nation have made its inhabitants keenly aware of the restrictions that nature can place on human activity. These factors traditionally kept the population of the island in balance with what the natural environment can feasibly support. Aloe industry and Phosphate and gold mining were all industries relied upon in early years.
However, the limitations imposed by nature were overcome in the 1930’s when a refinery was constructed to process oil from nearby Venezuela. With the refinery came the resources necessary to provide a secure and safe supply of electricity and desalinated water as well as a significant source of economic security for island residents. As a result, Aruba’s population increased significantly as did its dependence on the outside world. This security continued for the next 50 years, abruptly ending in 1985 with the closing of the refinery.
In response to events of the 1980’s, the Government of Aruba initiated a systematic plan to transition the focus of the Aruban economy from petrochemical production to tourism. Blessed with some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, Aruba carefully planned and developed its beach resources to become one of the most desirable tourist destination in the region, hosting over 1,000,000 visitors a year. As a result, if this success, Arubans have witnessed an unparalleled transformation in their economy, environment, and culture. Since1985, the number of visitors to the island has increased by over 250 percent, gross domestic product has more than quadrupled, unemployment practically has been eliminated and the overall quality of life for its inhabitants has improves significantly.