Dominican Republic Boasts Strong Tourism
SAN JUAN – At the recently held Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange conference, Radhamés Martínez-Aponte, technical vice minister of Tourism, announced a growth of 5.8 percent in overall tourism to Dominican Republic.
Simón Suárez, president of the National Hotel & Tourism Association, added that growth rates in the country are double the world average, tracking at a median growth of 5.1 percent over the past five years. The country is projected to reach six million visitors in 2016. Based on numbers thus far, the country is on track to meet a targeted 7 percent growth needed to achieve this.
Both speakers also noted that the United States remains the largest source market for Dominican tourism, with two million visitors in 2015, and Canada following with 780,000.
The island had a 75.5 percent hotel occupancy rate in 2015 and an expected average of 80 percent in 2016. Punta Cana leads accommodations with 37,000 rooms in the area. Its lead is followed by Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo, with 18 percent and 10 percent of the available rooms, respectively.
New properties such as those by Barceló, Intercontinental and Hard Rock have been developed, as well as remodeling and expansion projects, such as Santo Domingo’s historic Hotel El Embajador. By 2019, it is expected that 18,000 new hotel rooms will be ready from some 55 new hotel projects and investments worth $2 billion, according to the government.
Officials announced plans to offer preclearance facilities at Punta Cana International Airport for U.S. travelers returning from Dominican Republic, to allow a bypass of U.S. customs after their return to the states, slated to begin in May 2017. The Punta Cana International Airport is the main point of entry into Dominican Republic – with 66 percent of the travelers – followed by Santo Domingo’s Las Américas International Airport and Puerto Plata’s Gregorio Luperón International Airport. The three airports represent 92 percent of foreign air travel into the island. Dominican Republic has an open-sky policy – nine nationalities do not require a tourist visa, while 145 others (including the U.S. and Canada) only need to purchase a tourist card upon entry. The country wants to eliminate the need for visas entirely.
With Amber Cove in Puerto Plata opening in 2015, cruise arrivals increased by 64 percent, coming in at 550,000 visitors. Since the cove’s inauguration, an average of 5,000 cruise visitors arrive weekly to the area. The country plans to expand its cruise market beginning in December in Cap Cana, signing contracts with 11 providers and in discussions with six others.
Numbers show tourists are looking for vacations beyond the beach and are showing greater interest in multi-destination travel – 80 percent of all visits to Dominican Republic’s protected areas are by foreigners.
With nearly 5,000 miles of roads created or expanded within the past three years, all major tourism areas are now accessible within a 2-hour drive. The government says meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE); ecotourism; and luxury travel will be focused on for the coming year.