August 30, 2006


Ms. Kathryn W. Sudeikis
President and Chief Executive
American Society of Travel Agents
1101 King St., Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

Dear Ms. Sudeikis:

I was appalled to learn that Aruba is boasting about an upcoming mass convention of travel agents, sponsored by American tour operator Gogo Worldwide Vacations. An Aruban publication said that for Oct. 12-17, some 600 travel agents will be on that island.

“After the conference, they should be able to promote Aruba even better as vacation destination,” the article ungrammatically exults. This event not only adds insult to injury for the American people; this spits in the face of the Holloway Twitty family and their ongoing determination to find answers for the disappearance of their daughter Natalee.

At this point, I wish to cite a passage from the ethical code found on the ASTA Website:

9. Conflict of interest.

ASTA members will not allow any preferred relationship with a supplier to interfere with the interests of their clients.

The code concludes: Adherence to the Principles of the Code of Ethics signifies competence, fair dealing and high integrity. Failure to adhere to this Code may subject a member to disciplinary actions, as set forth in ASTA’s Bylaws.

I do not wish to split hairs in discussing who the clients are in this proposed venture and what kind of a relationship with a supplier qualifies as preferred or improper. But I absolutely wish to state that for any American company in the travel business to make such an arrangement with the Natalee Holloway case unresolved is morally and ethically despicable. I therefore am requesting that you call upon your members to shun this trip.

ASTA is not a law enforcement agency, and it is not your duty to prohibit travel to a destination unless the U.S. government has issued instructions to this effect. Agreed. But your organization is unique in the travel business by virtue of its representing travel agents and agencies. As such, your voice can and should be raised on relevant matters.

Natalee Holloway disappeared more than a year ago. Since then, elements of the Aruban government and law enforcement have conducted an obvious cover-up, presumably to protect certain local individuals and perhaps others; have waged a “blame the family, blame the girl, blame anybody but us” public relations campaign; have promoted the “one happy island” myth even as a variety of crimes occurred (and remain unsolved); and have finally insulted the family with the fable that the Netherlands is responsible for the case. Americans have responded to this barrage of insults by refusing to go to Aruba. By that government’s own admission, tourism has plunged. This latest venture by Aruba is an attempt to use a back-door approach, appealing not to the American public but to those who, in theory, should have concern for their customers’ safety … not to mention lives.

I cannot imagine that any reputable travel agency would recommend going to Aruba at this time. Indeed, in the absence of a formal travel boycott, one might think that your organization would be in the forefront of those groups demanding action to protect the interests of American tourists – and, without such action, would urge people to support the grieving family by spending their time at the beaches of some other Caribbean island.

I can only speculate on the motivation that drives Gogo Worldwide Vacations to sponsor events on Aruba at this time – apparently indifferent to the amorality of its actions. But your organization can, by urging travel agents not to participate, and urging a voluntary boycott of Aruba until we have answers in the Natalee Holloway case, display leadership and put Aruba on notice that ASTA’s code of ethics is more than empty words on paper. Your organization would, after all, speak up if a travel agent disappeared. Or would you?



Cc: Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Inc.
69 Spring St., P.O. Box 507

Ramsey, NJ 07446

Aruba Tourism Authority

1200 Harbor Blvd

Weehawken, NJ 07087

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you go Gogo, you have to go Bluejet who serve no lunch. You better bring your brown bag or you will starve to death. Aruba means death to a lot of people, anywhere you sleep down there at the beach you will be attacked by the denque flies which eat your skin and suck your blood dry. You will fall death with a scarlet fever. The Arubans dont care, they will just sweep you out to the sea with shovel.