WILLEMSTAD - It is with profound sadness that the Tourism Industry of Curaçao has received note of the passing away of not only our beloved tourism pioneer but our grandfather of tourism Honorary CHATA Member Mr. Rudy Dovale. To his family, colleagues and friends, please accept our deepest sympathies in the loss of a team member and friend.
Mr. Dovale was a driving force for the Curacao tourism industry and was known as a pioneer. In the words of Mr. Dovale, learning for the future we share today a combination of messages, articles and speeches that he wrote in the past years.
In one of his old speeches he points to a crucial sentence: ‘We must convince all Curaçaoans – especially those working in the sector – to believe in tourism, and fervently make an effort to bring it to a top level and keep it there. Success will automatically follow’.
According to Mr. Dovale, there’s an important lesson to be learned from the past. The past is as sure as dawn, with its great successes, but also with its many mistakes and miscalculated, careless decisions. We must learn from this for the future’.
For more than 50 years already, Rudy Dovale (1921-2019) has been involved in the tourism of Curaçao. The born of Curaçaoan parents American left Brooklyn in 1949 to the island of his ‘roots’. Soon afterwards, together with his first wife Helen, he started making advertisements for the hotels which were on the island at the time: Hotel Americano, Avila Hotel, Piscadera Bay Club, San Marco Hotel and Country Inn. He frequently worked for renowned Punda shops and later on also for the airline companies serving Curaçao: Pan American, KLM, Trans Caribbean Airways, Viasa and ALM. Dovale is proud of his advertising work – ‘Penha and Kooyman still use the same logo we designed for them 50 years ago’. In addition, he is also known as the publisher – for almost 40 years – of the tourism magazine Curaçao Holidays.
Looking over the Spanish Water with a ‘cuba libre’ within reach, the vibrant eighty-year-old reminisces about old times. “Punda was the number one shopping centre of the Caribbean. The only competitors were Puerto Rico and St.Thomas. But those islands didn’t even come near the popularity which Curaçao enjoyed. When you went on a cruise….it went to Curaçao”.
And every time a cruise ship moored, the Heerenstraat, Breedestraat and the Gomez-square swarmed with people, ‘patapata’, he recollects. He mentions Spritzer & Fuhrmann, El Louvre, El Globo, Casa Amarilla, Penha, Casa Abady, Casa Cohen, Gosens, Liverpool and Dialdas. “Some of the shops welcomed the tourists with a drink upon entering their store, rum & coke, Curaçao liqueur. The tourists didn’t want to leave”, he remembers. “Jeweler Spritzer & Fuhrmann had rolled out a red carpet in front of the door and there was a porter who was only permitted to let people in when others left the shop.” The tourists did nothing but shop during their stop on Curaçao. “ Nobody went to the beach. Curaçao was without a doubt the shopping paradise.”
The same counts for the Venezuelans who arrived in great numbers to do their shopping on the island. Not only for jewels or watches. “They also bought vast quantities of Colgate toothpaste and boxes of expensive perfumes to be sold in their homeland. Excellent business.” Until the bolívar took a free fall. The economy of Curaçao suffered a big blow.
Dovale: “We had no back-up plan. We were being lazy, we were content and carefree. The Dutch, Americans, Venezuelans, came to Curaçao anyway, did their shopping and were happy. So were we. Furthermore, the offshore sector brought in millions in earnings and we had the oil refinery with a good ten thousand employees. Everything flourished without us having to do anything.”
But the eighties were bitter and hard. Not only the Venezuelans withdrew due to the economic crisis. But also, the amount of cruise ships visiting Curaçao visibly diminished. New, important players emerged in the market: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Barbados, and Martinique. “The cruise lines became more aggressive: shops on board, casinos, and top-entertainment. The people got their stuff and fun on board. Curaçao was no longer a ‘must’. Then suddenly the island seemed to be very far, too far to sail to, with not a single boat in sight.”
In the meantime, Curaçao switched over to more stay-over tourism, with the arrival of the Intercontinental Hotel (‘at that time one of the most exquisite hotels of the Caribbean, and with its own casino where the Curaçaoans enjoyed going to during the evening) followed by the Holiday Inn, Coral Cliff, Haseleger Beach Hotel and Hilton. Some growth seemed to be taking shape in the sector.
Dovale: “Already then the chicken-or-the-egg story came up. Should we build hotels if we do not first have more scheduled flights? Again, this is a current issue. “Dovale points to the past to learn from for the future. In Dovale’s opinion tourism needs to become ‘the number one money-maker’. “Our economy will flourish, and our citizens will benefit directly from the earnings coming out of the tourism industry. Even if we find oil, tourism can still become the backbone of our economy.”
Dovale has no doubts. He has traveled a lot and has been closely related to the blossoming of Aruba as tourism paradise for the Americans. The old Second World War veteran has run a large advertising agency for 40 years, is active in the Rotary. He loves Curaçao, his second wife Jackie, and tourists.
According to Mr. Rudy Dovale, CHATA is the heart and soul of Curacao’s Tourism Industry. The organization was created a half century ago, by young professionals with the vision to see that Tourism would be the Economic Future of the island.
May his memories keep him alive in our hearts and minds and may the family find comfort in knowing that he rests in peace with God.
With deepest sympathy,
Curaçao Hospitality & Tourism Association