Ships in ArubaAruba has begun a $62 million process of moving its cargo facilities away from tourist attractions and the cruise port, said Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, in an interview with Cruise Industry News.

The target date for completion is about two years away, and the island has just opened the bidding process for the job. Existing cargo facilities will probably be converted to attractions or more cruise berths, she said.

But the island is aware that it needs to keep an eye on how many ships can berth at once.

“We need to improve the quality of our experience on a continuous basis,” said Asjoe-Croes.

And that may be the case, as cruise traffic for the first five months of 2011 was up by 38,795 passengers.

In March, Aruba received a record-setting 100,000 passengers.

However, “we remain focused on quality over quantity,” added Asjoe-Croes, who is the first CEO of the new Aruba Tourism Authority.

The island-nation is also busy installing San Francisco-like trollies to allow better tourist movements.

A $20 million airport refurbishment and “facelift” project is also well underway, and, additionally, kiosks are being placed in cruise terminals that offer various local products. A new Ritz Carlton property is expected to open in 2012.

Beaches are just 10 minutes away from the cruise ships by bus ($2.25 each way per passenger), and Asjoe-Croes noted that  tour operators were meeting cruise lines’ expectations.

“Tour capacity is extremely important to them,” she commented.

A small percentage of Aruba’s hotel room tax is being put into a tourism development fund that will support cultural and green projects.