|The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.|
From what we gathered at last month’s Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic is gaining popularity and becoming easier than ever to sell. Here are some highlights Travel Agent gleaned from DATE. For starters, Vice Minister of Tourism Radames Martinez-Aponte noted that his country had an “exceptional” increase in tourist arrivals in 2012.
“Last year, we had a growth rate of around 4.95 percent,” he said. “This level of growth was the most significant we have seen around the Caribbean, as our competition was lower, with Jamaica at 1.8 percent and the Riviera Maya at 3.4 percent.” The ministry of tourism’s $13 million 2013 budget is its largest ever, Martinez-Aponte said, including $1.7 million for “infrastructure and promotion.”
“We have a goal of 10 million tourists during the next 10 years,” he said, noting that the ministry will spend $2.5 million to develop the Puerto Plata tourist district. The ministry will also continue recent work to revitalize the historic Santo Domingo colonial zone, including the restoration of historic facades and the installation of video security cameras in public areas.
Santo Domingo is now easily connected to La Romana and Punta Cana with the new “El Coral” highway (which has cut travel time in half), and will soon be connected to the increasingly popular Samana peninsula via a new highway that will cut travel time to one hour and 45 minutes.
On the hotel front, Sheraton is coming back to Santo Domingo with the opening of a 225-room hotel in December. Undergoing a $6 million renovation, it first opened as a Sheraton 30 years ago, was later known as the Melia Santo Domingo, and is currently open as Magna 365, ahead of its rebirth as the Sheraton. Meanwhile, a Four Points by Sheraton is scheduled to open in Punta Cana Village in October.
Set to debut on December 20, Westin Punta Cana is only five minutes from the international airport. The 400-room hotel will primarily target the business and convention market. It will have ocean views from all rooms, a cigar bar, Six Senses Spa, a gym and a 24-hour business center.
Slated to open early next year on Playa Grande on the north coast, Aman Resort and its 18-hole golf course are currently under construction. The complex will include suites with private pools and villas on the edge of the cliffs.