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.


Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela
Geographic coordinates: 12 30 N, 69 58 W
Population: 107,635 (July 2012 est.)

note: estimate based on a revision of the base population, fertility, and mortality numbers, as well as a revision of 1985-1999 migration estimates from outmigration to immigration, which is assumed to continue into the future; the new results are consistent with the 2000 census (July 2012 est.)

Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.4% (male 9,847/female 9,729)

15-64 years: 70.3% (male 35,809/female 38,816)

65 years and over:  11.2% (male 4,698/female 7,214) (2011 est.)

Median age: total: 38.4 years

male: 36.6 years

female: 40.2 years (2012 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Aruba

Dependency status: member country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs obtained in 1986 upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Oranjestad

geographic coordinates: 12 31 N, 70 02 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Telephones – main lines in use: 35,000 (2010)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 131,800 (2010)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern fully automatic telecommunications system

domestic: increased competition through privatization; 3 wireless service providers are now licensed

international: country code – 297; landing site for the PAN-AM submarine telecommunications cable system that extends from the US Virgin Islands through Aruba to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and the west coast of South America; extensive interisland microwave radio relay links (2007)

Airports: 1 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2012)

Roadways: total: 800 km

paved: 513 km

unpaved: 287 km

Military branches: no regular indigenous military forces; the Netherlands maintains a detachment of marines, a frigate, and an amphibious combat detachment in the neighbouring Netherlands Antilles (2010)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 24,891

females age 16-49: 26,202 (2010 est.)


Tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy, with offshore banking and oil refining and storage also important. The rapid growth of the tourism sector over the last decade has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Over 1.5 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the US. Construction continues to boom, with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level. In addition, the country’s oil refinery reopened in 1993, providing a major source of employment, foreign exchange earnings, and growth.


Tourist arrivals have rebounded strongly following a dip after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The island experiences only a brief low season, and hotel occupancy in 2004 averaged 80%, compared to 68% throughout the rest of the Caribbean. The government has made cutting the budget and trade deficits a high priority.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Illicit drugs: transit point for US- and Europe-bound narcotics with some accompanying money-laundering activity; relatively high percentage of population consumes cocaine