ARUBA - CARIBBEAN SEA ___________________________________________________________ * Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has traditionally been dominated by three main industries. A 19th century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. In 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire and Curacao, which together with Aruba form the ABC-Islands) and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.
In 1986, the oil refinery closed, which severely impacted Aruba's economy and accelerated an already-evident shift towards tourism which is now almost complete. The oil refinery reopened in 1991, closed again in 2009, reopened again in 2011, and closed again in 2012.
Today, tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy. The rapid growth of the tourism sector over the last decade has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Construction boomed, with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level. The 1980s tourism boom led to a bad hangover, in that several projects ran out of money during construction and sat as half-completed eyesores until they were eventually picked up by other investors and completed during the 1990s and 2000s. To prevent a recurrence of that situation, the government imposed a building moratorium in 2007.
Aruba of today has become more and more popular, many reputable travel sites rating Aruba's beaches in the top 10 of the world constantly and the best cruising ports of the Caribbean.
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