August 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Familiar spotlight on Aruba after disappearance stirs up local frustration

The disappearance of Robyn Gardner has brought the international media back to Aruba, and Arubans aren’t happy about it. After the prolonged investigation without resolution in the Natalee Holloway case the summer of 2005, tourism took a hit. The locals are nervous and not keen to see us again.

There is no way to keep a low profile on an island when you’re CNN. A photograph of us reporting in front of the prosecutor’s office was on the front page of the island’s most popular paper, The Diario, the day after we landed.

Since then, other networks have followed us to Aruba. NBC’s satellite dish now sprouts from the hotel grounds. An unnamed television team was having lunch near the site where Gardner reportedly vanished while snorkeling. Once the manager of the restaurant knew they were members of the media, he threw them out, refusing their money for the meal they had already been served. It’s a very strong reaction for a place whose maroon and white license plates boast “One Happy Island.”

That’s an extreme example. I have been here many times, and always, unfortunately, for bad news. I was here for much of the Holloway frenzy, but even now, I find most here are extremely polite and friendly. However, if you ask them if they know anything about the current case and would they be willing to be interviewed, people grow silent. Twice my requests were met with the same response. One person said “here is someone who could talk" to me while writing down a name and phone number. Only it was the number for the island’s solicitor general, and I already had it.

This story, although tragic, hasn't reached the Holloway kind of media madness, at least not yet. But like then, rumors are quick to spread. On the beach by the Marriott hotel north of town, the buzz was that Nancy Grace had arrived on the island the night before on a private jet.

The Aruban government learned from its mistakes in the Holloway case. This time, immediately after Gardner was reported missing, a very aggressive search by land, sea and air was launched. The solicitor general, who is the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, is readily available for interviews, and police quickly asked the FBI to assist their investigation in the U.S.

Another important difference? The person of interest is an American, not one of their own with ties to the justice system. The politics are not the same.

But many of the faces of the returning members of the media are the same.

The greeting I get from friends on the island is often with a sigh: “It’s nice to see you, but not necessarily good to see you.”

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Filed under: Aruba
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. Carla

    I'm surprised people are even going there. I wouldn't after the way they handled the Natalie Holloway case. It is what it is, if they don't like it, too bad. They put theirselves in the spotlight by not doing a damned thing before.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • San

      Absolutely agree. I think the place should be off anyone's list as a destination spot given both the safety of the location (not safe) and the police cooperation (not good). They don't like the bad publicity? That'll stop when bad things stop happening. Meanwhile, I wouldn't let any of my kids consider vacationing there.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Vesi

    If this alleged crime is turning some people off on visiting Aruba then I assume they also would not want to visit many mid- and large American cities, most of which have a crime rate that is higher or much higher than Aruba's.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      The issue isn't the crime rate. The issue was Aruba's apparent indifference to dealing quickly and thoroughly with the Holloway matter. It suggested that tourists, or at least American tourists, are disposable. That isn't calculated to instill confidence in would-be visitors.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jecka

    Whatever. I love Aruba and have been traveling there annually for nearly a decade. It's a shame that they continue to get bad press when, just like everywhere else, tourists need to be careful when partaking in many activities.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. OldGoat

    Not to mention getting rid of those who post drivel like yours.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. forget aruba

    Personally, I didn't like how the Holloway case was handled in Aruba. And I, too, chose to avoid the island for that reason. I will not visit Aruba and my earned dollars will not go to their profit!

    And Good Lord – there are so many more beautiful Caribbean Islands and places down there – you don't need this little dooms place to enjoy a most amazing vacation! Aruba is nothing compared to some other places – give me a break!

    August 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • SMOKEKITTY1154

      THE PROBLEM IS YOU DON'T GO ANYWHERE WITH STRANGERS PEOPLE YOU MEET ONLINE ARE STRANGERS, PEOPLE YOU MEET IN BARS ARE STRANGERS. HAPPENS EVERYWHERE IN GOOD OLE USA

      August 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MinnyHockey

    Can we ship Casey Anthony over to Aruba?

    August 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pete

    If they don't like it then too bad. Instead of trying to solve crimes they would rather cover it up so that people would forget and they keep on getting their tourist money. It's completely immoral. At least this time they are bothering to look for a victim. If you don't want to come to the US because of crimes then that's fine. At least we don't look the other way from it,

    August 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John A. Miller

    Why int eh world would this women go away with a person she had just met on-line? She had a boyfriend who knew nothing about this and he says she was probably calling my name and I was not there. She went without him and he knew nothing of this other guy so seems to me that this women was a little wild and got messed up with some lunitic.

    August 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. timestickin

    They could all be safe at my house! I have sand in my back yard... I would protect...!

    August 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. George Jetson

    I guess the frustration will end when the problems end. So I guess they need to get to work if they want something to change.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gene Brady

    Thw world community stood by and watched the Halloway case and the total lack of effort on Aruba's part to seek justice for the victim( a tourist ) but a lot of protection for the killer ( a citizen ). Why would any American parent allow their child to go to Aruba?

    August 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gaycee

    Sometimes its just cheaper and better to kill them. Getting a divorce in this country is worse than suicide.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Regardless

    Regardless of it all, it's not the media on itself that Arubans despise, but just Nancy Grace who since day one of the Natalee Holloway case did not have the majority of her facts straight. Use these lies to turn her audience against an island and its Dutch Judicial System. And the media group trashed out of the restaurant of course were the Fox News crew for Greta van Susteren. They are known to destroy private property to gain half of the information.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dot8

    Americans, stay away from Aruba, its open game out there. It has become a missing persons destination.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chris

    Anyone else wondering why Robyn Gardner's name on Facebook is Robyn Colson? And is the BF for real? "All I can think is she was calling for me"

    Dude, why didn't she call you and tell you she was hitting aruba with this "friend".,.Probably because it was an "escort" going on vacay with her john..

    Come on people..

    August 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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