When Wichita Villacres moved to the island nation of Aruba back in 1982, she was already an accomplished business woman in the worldwide shipping industry. But landing on One Happy Island as a permanent resident sparked a new interest in her. The tourism industry was still a relatively new idea to Aruba, and Villacres saw an opportunity to make the island a destination for MICE travel – companies choosing Aruba for their meetings, incentive travel programs, conferences and exhibitions. What was needed, however, was someone to serve as a destination management service to coordinate all the details, agendas, itineraries and ideas with local vendors. She studied the industry for five years and then founded Eco Destination Management Services (ECO DMS) in 1987. Thirty years later she continues to serve as the company’s founding CEO. Under her leadership, ECO DMS didn’t take long to become the leading DMS company in the Dutch Caribbean. In fact, ECO DMS made history 25 years ago in 1992.
Back in the early 1990s, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. was busy becoming the world’s fourth-largest insurance broker and provider of risk management services to clients everywhere. When Gallagher partnered with ECO DMS for its 1992 corporate trip to Aruba, ECO DMS new it was time to pull out all the stops and do something incredibly unique. A few years earlier in 1989, Villacres had traveled to Las Vegas for the annual meeting of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE). She was particularly impressed with how one of the main streets of Las Vegas was closed and made available for a grand public event. Her idea was to do something similar on Aruba. This is how ECO DMS made history 25 years ago – allowing a private corporate event to take over an entire public area for the first time ever.
What ECO DMS created was a carnival-like event – a huge celebration with a strong Dutch cultural theme. The street party was located at Daniel Leo Plaza, an iconic spot in the heart of Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad. On hand to entertain the crowd was a diamond cutter, Dutch shoe-maker, and plenty of revelers costumed in traditional old Dutch attire. By all accounts the event was a huge success.
Villacres was recognized at that time as Woman of the Year by Bon Dia Aruba, one of the island’s main daily newspapers in those days. The award, given in collaboration with the island’s government, specifically cited her central role in single-handedly putting Aruba on the global map as a MICE destination. Villacres had already won to Crystal Awards from SITE for previous efforts, and ECO DMS has continued to win awards ever since then. Her can-do attitude has played a key role in making ECO DMS what it is today.
ECO DMS is the leading destination management service company in the Dutch Caribbean, combining personal service, in-depth knowledge of the islands and creativity to produce unforgettable experiences for all attendees. Every detail is addressed with precision, care, and white-glove service from beginning to end. Our services include analyzing and evaluating appropriate venues/activities suited to match the demographics and size of your group; researching and securing venues/activities that support the group’s needs & desires; evaluate “return on investment” (ROI) when appropriate and applicable; conducting due diligence on all vendor options to insure appropriate business licensing, desirable insurance requirements, safety training, dress code and training procedures of personnel. Visit our website for more information.
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