Mr. Hans Loos, owner of Trikes Aruba tells us about his unique business concept, the start of his company and the challenges he faced realizing his dream.
Describe Trikes Aruba in brief.
Trikes Aruba gives its clients an unforgettable adventure. A trike is a three-wheeled vehicle and it is an ideal way to explore Aruba, being part of a tour. It is a very safe, stable and comfortable vehicle. At Trikes Aruba we maintain strict safety rules and procedures. Our team consists of 4 people and our office is situated at the Dutch Mill.
How was the idea to bring trikes to Aruba born?
My wife and I both come from the hospitality industry. Our wish has always been to live abroad one day and we decided to follow our dreams. We went on vacation to different countries, including Curacao and after a visit to Aruba, we chose Aruba. We loved Aruba and its friendly people. We wanted to offer Aruba a product that was not yet available, something different.
During a previous holiday we had rented a trike which turned out to be a great experience. The idea was to start a trike rental company in the Netherlands, but as it always rains there, it was not an option, and that was when we thought to do this in Aruba. After talking to the manufacturer to get the exclusive right for the Caribbean, we were ready to start: two trikes were shipped to Aruba and we followed a training to provide the repair ourselves.
We came to Aruba through an old friend. He lived already for some time in Aruba and we had many questions for him.
When was Trikes Aruba established?
We started by the end of November of 2008
Why did you choose for the trade name Trikes Plan B?
In Aruba there is always a Plan B because Plan A hardly ever succeeds. What I mean by that is, when you write a business plan in the Netherlands, that is the way you proceed. Here you lose three times more money than planned, because afterwards everything turns out very different than previously indicated in the business plan.
How did you experience the emigration to Aruba and starting as an entrepreneur?
Before we moved to Aruba, we went for a month on vacation. When we got to Aruba, it appeared that the company was not yet established on the island. During the first month we organized all the paperwork. We went to another notary and within 2 weeks the incorporation was a fact.
Then the troubles with getting the correct permits started.
How did the establishment of the company go (step by step)?
It did not go as smooth as we would have wanted it to go. Since we haven’t lived long enough in Aruba, we were not eligible for a director’s license, and thus we had to appoint someone else as a managing director. And that is how you can come across the wrong people. Plus this is what promotes fraud in the establishment procedure.
Another challenge was to obtain the vehicle rental license. They insisted that the license should be on a person’s name, the local managing director in this case. I don’t agree as in my opinion it should be on the legal entity’s name. Then they insisted that a trike is the same as a motorcycle. Again, I disagree, a three-wheeled vehicle is obviously different from a motorcycle but they gave us a license for motorcycles, which of course was of no good. After contacting the Minister we eventually got the right license.
Regarding our location, we rented a slot on the sidewalk in front of Paseo Herencia Mall to exhibit and book the trikes. Our monthly fee was quite a substantial amount. One day, after a terrace on the same sidewalk was removed, we found out that the sidewalk was not property of the mall but of the government. So we had to leave.
Soon after we learned that 'TripAdvisor' had launched a new website, which meant it wasn’t necessary anymore to be out on the streets at night. We also hired someone to help us with the marketing and the company started growing.
Unfortunately, we were turned away by all hotels. We used to pick up guests, but apparently there are bigger companies who have the exclusive right to do this. When a cruise ship arrives, we are almost pulverized by other tour guides who want to sell their tour/products, while we were only there to pick-up our clients who had already booked online.
Then there is the Customs department where we also faced some challenges. The service is very bad. We also pay 40% import duty, that’s a lot!
Please mention positive and negative points of Aruba as an investment country.
The work is fun with the tourists; I love my business. Service in tourism is deteriorating. It is much more aggressive now than it used to be. It is all about recruiting tourists. And the tourists are not always treated well by everyone.
What should the government of Aruba offer to promote and facilitate the entrepreneur?
- Various departments must operate more professionally and have a better understanding of the law.
- Change import tariffs to a more attractive and feasible rate.
- Procedure of permits and licenses must be much easier, hassle free.
- One must adhere to the rules.
- The government should see entrepreneurs as an asset that stimulate the economy and not as an expense.
- It is very important to have the right person in the right place, with the necessary knowledge and right attitude.
- In general the communication in Aruba should be much better. There is simply no information given, only at the Aruba Chamber of Commerce.
- Make it easier to hire a foreigner if you cannot find a local person who suits the job.
- Banks must change their attitude. It is extremely difficult to open a bank account.
- Arrange an online merchant system for Aruba.
- As a foreign investor I actually need a lawyer every day to defend myself. This needs to change.
Do you see a potential hub function for Aruba (between Europe and South America)?
Only if there are major changes in Aruba, then this hub function can be a success, think of permits, for managing directors for example, incentives for entrepreneurs, attractive tax regime, etc.
If you could do it over would you have done exactly the same thing?
No. Then my first step would have been the Aruba Chamber.
What are your plans for the future of Trikes Aruba?
I hope to expand my business in the future. I do not need to be rich, but I must be able to live. I will continue to fight. It has been blood, sweat and tears until now, and I will not give up easily.
Do you have anything to add?
If the Aruba Chamber had not been there, we were probably long gone. We feel that the Aruba Chamber is the only place in Aruba where they try to help and inform the entrepreneur. Actually, every entrepreneur should start at the Chamber first and not at the notary. I would suggest the idea to organize all necessary papers before you start to invest in Aruba.