Punta Cana, Dominican Republic—Travel Agent recently returned from the Barcelo Bavaro Convention Center where we covered the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE). The conference began on April 1 and ended on April 3. Here’s some of the notable news to come out of it.
A marathon of press conferences for DATE kicked off the morning of the event’s second day with what could possibly be the biggest news to come out of the show: Barcelo Bavaro Beach Hotels & Resorts announced plans for complete refurbishments of all five of its properties in Punta Cana, beginning with the Bavaro Beach Resort. The Bavaro Beach Resort will have all of its 600 rooms upgraded to junior suites. The five-hotel complex will then add a new golf course, casino, disco and theater within the next two to four years. Preliminary work on what has been described as a project with no budget limit began earlier this year as rooms were assessed. “Of course we always have a budget, but this is something that will not have a limit,” says Juan Marques, director general of the Bavaro Beach Resort, which first opened in 1985. “But to say we would stop at $100 million or even $200 million would be wrong. Whatever it takes, we will do.”
The always personable Felix Jiminez, the minister of tourism for the Dominican Republic, began his press conference at DATE with news of an 8.6 percent increase in tourism to the Dominican Republic for the first half of March, compared to the first half of March 2007. Numbers for the remainder of March haven’t been recorded yet. For January and February combined, the country saw a 9.14 percent increase compared to last year. Jiminez says 3,027 hotels with a total of 63,000 rooms were added in 2007. He also notes that the government has poured $400 million to date in infrastructure improvements and plans to pour another $1 billion before the end of 2012. And the investment paid off: The country took in more than $4 billion from tourism alone in 2007, putting it ahead of oil as the country’s main resource.