Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island’s economy has 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. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba’s request in 1990.
Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 32 kilometres (20 mi) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 10 kilometres (6 mi) across at its widest point. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean.
Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The citizens of these countries all share a single nationality: Dutch. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad.
Tourism, petroleum bunkering, hospitality, and financial and business services are the mainstays of the small open Aruban economy.
Tourist arrivals have rebounded strongly following a dip after the 2008 global financial crisis. Tourism now accounts for a majority of economic activity. Over 1 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with the large majority of those from the US. The rapid growth of the tourism sector has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Construction continues to boom with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level.
Aruba is heavily dependent on imports and is making efforts to expand exports to achieve a more desirable trade balance. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with the US, the Netherlands, and Panama being the major suppliers.
Aruba weathered two major shocks in recent years: fallout from the global financial crisis, which had its largest impact on tourism, and the closure of its oil refinery in 2009. However, tourism and related industries have continued to grow, and the Aruban government is working to attract more diverse industries. Aruba’s banking sector withstood the recession well, and unemployment has significantly decreased.
Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 179 km2 (69.1 sq mi) and is densely populated, with a total of 102,484 inhabitants at the 2010 Census. It lies outside Hurricane Alley.