Influencer Caroline Hartel

Interview June 2019

Caroline, could you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born in Germany, but I grew up in Holland and I am happily married for 8 years now and have one stepdaughter. I have one brother who lives in Florida since the year 2000.

My mother died at a young age and my father re-married and at his 82 years he is sort of globetrotter. My father used to work in the Oil Industry and I had an expat education as we worked and lived in different countries.

Why did you decide to come to Curaçao?
We lived in Amsterdam-Zuid on a houseboat without many commitments. It felt superficial; my husband, who is from Curaçao, hadn’t been to the island for 40 years. We visited it a couple of times, we liked it, and so we came. My husband started parasailing, this was the drive for him to come to Curaçao and I joined him. I told my boss at TUI in Holland, where I worked back then, we were planning to leave to go to Curaçao. So, he asked me to become a manager in Curaçao of TUI, to help strengthen the brand in Curaçao, and I must say that we were very successful in reaching that goal.

Are you planning to stay in Curaçao for the long haul?
Well, we are not planning to go back to Holland somewhere soon, as we are enjoying life here. We loved living on our boat in Amsterdam because somehow, there is more sun shining when you live on a boat. Seriously, I have experienced that compared with living in a house or flat, and therefore I could walk barefoot every day. I love walking barefoot. On Curaçao, this is also the beauty of living here: the moment I am home, I can walk barefoot again.

Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences, and what are you doing now?
I have tons of life experiences, after finishing my gymnasium at a European school (high school with classical education), I went to a Real Estate Business School and later studied to become an interpreter. Btw, I didn’t graduate in both, but I am an example of someone that through continuously hard work since I was 18 years old, still managed to have a successful career. I now work at Corendon since December 2018 as a business assistant of Atilay Uslu. Mr. Uslu is here on Curaçao on average a week every month and I assist him to execute his (new) plans. Basically, I am working on helping Corendon to “become a positive household name”- in the Curaçao society.

We became interested in interviewing you, as we have heard that you are also interested in some way somehow create a (virtual) platform illustrating positive initiatives, as you have had a similar experience when you used to live in Amsterdam. It is this correct?
Well not so, it wasn’t me but a close friend of me that wanted to start this positive platform in Amsterdam some years back, which she didn’t succeed in. But the idea was great, and I had to think about that time recently, because I got frustrated with all the negativity in the news, and the way people speak and think of the future of and on Curaçao. I totally disagree. There is so much cool positive stuff going on. I would love to collaborate with a group to help create such a platform in Curaçao. I believe in the young professionals of Curaçao. 

In my position, I can use my influence to help trigger other positive developments on the island. As Corendon, we are working to create a new resort that is helping to renew the development of that whole area in Otrobanda, all the way from Riffort to the Marriott. This in itself is very positive. But I am not the driver, the driver of positive developments are the younger generation, young professionals like Gino Jacobs and Boudino de Jong from Profound Works, Skempie and SkeniCash. Daniel Corsen of D & I, Deva-Dee De Windt-Siliee and Lysayé de Windt from Curaçao Cares and youngsters like Christy-Ann Rojer, a young photographer and entrepreneur, that started Sauc’é Shots & Cocktail Bar and the Poké food bar. Every single day there is something positive that can be shared, and this should be presented in a way that someone living in Montaña or Fuik or Barber could also resonate with and understand. It has to reach a broad range of groups in our society. So this platform needs to come.

But do you also see challenges for the sector apart from the apparent bright prospects?

Yes, there are. Well at the one hand you have projected investments and job opportunities (1200 new jobs projected) in the hospitality sector.

But we, I mean government and the private sector, need to do a better job to manage and handle the educational challenges we have, to upgrade the skills and knowledge levels of the workers in the tourism sector. For example, we need a vocational training and education approach for the tourism sector. We need to invest a lot to time in this. For example: VPCO has an approval from the Inspectorate of Education of the Ministry of Education of a plan that was prepared by them 1,5 years ago, we hope that the Minister of Education will soon approve this proposal. If the government doesn’t have the funds, the private sector will have to assume their responsibility and help finance this vocational training. In all scenarios we need this.

We need a more resilient government to partner with us to maximize the potential of the sector. There are so many initiatives to improve the image of the sector in Curaçao, so maybe the 1200 jobs opportunities are on the low end of the spectrum and it could be even more.

One last challenge for the sector might be the imago of  tourism within the community. I am convinced that the hospitality sector can be a stepping stone for so many types of people with a proactive attitude and/or entrepreneurial background. There are a broad variety of opportunities in tourism, whether you are an extravert or introvert person, a whiz-kid in ICT, or a gardener (because some people are good with their hands), it is a pity that a lot of people don’t see this yet. So we as “the tourism sector” need to do a better job to campaign in a nontraditional way and market these job opportunities.

I have understood that yourself that you have been to Holland for recruiting purposes in May as you believe in a “brain gain”, could you expand a little on this?
Yes, recruiting young talent went quite well. I have been involved in “brain gain” opportunities for years now, with organizations like “We Connect” we try to get “smarties” with a University degree or HBO-degree from local descent back to Curaçao and contribute to the economic boom, that I foresee. As I have said there are lots of new job opportunities, as there are 5 new hotels to be constructed in the pipeline and the hospitality sector is an excellent way to make a career and move upwards.

What are other challenges that you see?
I want to be a facilitator and at times a voice in issues regarding tourism in Curaçao. But I also see challenges outside the hospitality sector. Challenges like, what is going to happen with the future of the refinery, that is a real societal challenge, that might affect all of us. Mass lay-offs will burden the society, and what is needed are ways and means to help and support people if this come to pass. This could be in helping them with their mortgages for example, but also, there would need to be a structure or system to help outsource and outplace professionals and workers, basically to help people to look at their future from a different perspective. This is very important.

What is you BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
I like to do things that are good for me and for others in the world, either human beings or sentient beings. It makes me happy when I do it.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
There are only so many hours in a day to do all the things that I would love to do. I find it difficult to say “no”. I also find it difficult to prioritize, because there are so many things I think that are important.

How do you solve these dilemmas?
Well, I am afraid, that I juggle a lot.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal skills?
I don’t read so much, because of lack of time but I do have lots of tacit knowledge based on my experiences in the past. I go to seminars and workshops. I also like to change life challenges into wisdom and love to share this with others.

What are your (other) strengths?
I like to be a driver of changes and developments, I have unlimited energy, I am loyal and I work hard.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Well, I am a busy person and don’t have a lot of spare time. I am a Rotarian which I really like. I like cleaning up a beach or help to renovate a shelter home; that really recharges me and I love being on the “Queen Elisabeth” my husband’s “boto piskado”, on the Sunday afternoons, floating aimlessly in the sea.

If you, as Caroline Hartel, would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I would say “hello”, mention my name and then asked them how they are doing. I would listen to their answer.

How would you describe Caroline in one word or one sentence?
I am a typical Gemini. I am a busy person doing lots of things at the same time, as I just mentioned. I can be very emotional and yet also very business like.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Well I have worked in different sectors and different people have inspired me, so it is difficult to mention some. But since I live here, I have met so many young professionals and that was also true in Holland btw, youngsters being their own boss, being social entrepreneurs, they are business people with a “wink”, they inspire me.

What was a defining moment in your life?
I was planning to get married once before on 1-2-2003 and there was a last minute cancellation of the wedding. What seemed like a drama appeared to be a blessing as I learned “how deep one can go in your life and to reset your life.” I have met so many super cool people in those days, friends that helped me “flip-flop my mindset” and that has been a real blessing and of great value to me.

Where do you want to be 10 to 15 years from now with your career?
At Banda Abou.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you, let’s say 20 years from now?
I have always been their most loyal friend;
I have always been there in those moments where it really matters.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
Life is a journey, and basically I have said everything already.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I have two motto’s where I live by: “Yes, we can” and the other one is “No guts, no glory” or any type of different expression of the same principles. I really believe in these motto’s.

One of the 250 influencers
As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Caroline Hartel for her commitment to help boost the hospitality sector, her advocacy and efforts to offer vocational training and re-vamped the educational approach in the hospitality sector, which will enable mindset changes among many. But also her commitment to help co-create a positive platform on the future of Curaçao. As she sees so much positive stuff going on, she is wholeheartedly committed to collaborate with all those helping to create such a platform in Curaçao.

As representative of Corendon, the creation of this new resort in itself, is helping to renew the development of that whole area in Otrobanda, all the way from Riffort to the Marriott and that in itself is very positive. We definitely consider her one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better, especially in the hospitality sector of our society. We, as core group of Share2Uplift, are totally aligned with the idea to create a positive platform in Curaçao and we will collaborate in whatever way possible, to make this happen soon.

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