DATE 2014: What's Next for the Dominican Republic

Most of the hotels in Punta Cana have modernized, thanks to new industry-friendly legislation.

Most of the hotels in Punta Cana have modernized, thanks to new industry-friendly legislation.

Travel Agent recently returned from Punta Cana after our coverage of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) 2014, which saw its most pre-scheduled appointments in four years. This year’s show attracted 532 individual suppliers and 225 individual buyers. The number of prescheduled appointments was 4,626, the most the show has had in four years. In 2011, there were 2,872 appointments, while 2012 saw 3,785 before a slight dip to 3,510 in 2013.

DATE 2014 marked the 15th anniversary of the most important travel trade show for the Dominican touristic product. It also marked a new beginning for the MICE segment in the Dominican Republic. A total of 47 duly qualified MICE buyers participated in the first Hosted MICE Buyer Program in the country.

Here are other newsworthy items worth sharing from DATE.

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RELATED: Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone to be Completely Renovated by March 15

Dominican Republic Sees Spike in Tourism Numbers

The Dominican Republic reached 10 million tourists in 2013, an increase of 3.6 percent. This increase in the Dominican tourism industry is owed to the new Tourism Incentive Law that has allowed 34 touristic projects from all over the national territory.

Tourism is expected to rise in Puerto Plata with the completion of a new cruise ship port.

Tourism is expected to rise in Puerto Plata with the completion of a new cruise ship port.

The new legislation has widened the period of fiscal exemption from 10 to 15 years, thereby encouraging all existing establishments. As such, the majority of hotels in Punta Cana have modernized.

The number of visitors received has also increased, above all in the British and German markets, which have shown recuperation with respect to last year, thanks to the advocacy that has been done by the Tourism Ministry. North American tourists have increased 10 percent. The United States is the country with the most number of tourists visiting the DR with a total of 1,622,838 arrivals in 2013. The second largest in tourist numbers would be Germany with 213,233 arrivals in ‘13.

New Puerto Plata Cruise Port

In the case of the Puerto Plata province, it is hoped that the new Carnival cruise ship port, which will finish being built in December of this year, will invigorate tourism along the northern coast of the country.

In addition, the Ministry has also reinforced other areas with the new Colonial Zone, the construction of the El Coral highway, and the innovative Atlantic Boulevard.

The country also wants to make room for itself in the important business and meetings tourism sector. As such, a Convention Center will be built in Santo Domingo to encourage it, in which the private hotel sector will participate.

Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Samana Prepares for Tourism Boom

MITUR was slated to start a project April 30 that aims to make the soon-to-be-bustling town of Samana a little more aesthetically pleasing by encouraging locals to paint their houses.

During the “Paint your House” project, MITUR will offer paint to the house owners near the different highways/streets giving access into Samana for them to make their houses look prettier.

And the anticipation of increased tourism is justified since a host of big name hotels have already set up shop there. The destination also recently secured its first direct flight from New York.

In June of 2012, Samana finally nailed down its first direct flights from the U.S. JetBlue Airways officially started flying from John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York City to Samana on November 14 of 2012.

The flights are twice weekly. Flights leave from JFK at 8:25 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday and arrive in Samana at 1:05 p.m. Return flights leave at 2 p.m. and arrive in New York at 4:50 p.m.

Sightseeing Tour Includes Best of Capital Attractions

“Santo Domingo is the first destination in the Caribbean to provide a Gray Line Sightseeing Tour, which will touch the main points of interest for tourists visiting the capital of the Dominican Republic.”

The statement was made by Catherine Guzmán, director of sales and marketing at Gray Line Santo Domingo, in the framework of the 15th edition of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE).

She explained that the sightseeing consists of touring around the main sights of the city of Santo Domingo inside comfortable panoramic buses, where the tourists receive detailed information in their own language, either by a professional guide or by audio guides.

She noted that the points of interest included in the Sightseeing Tour are the Plaza España and the Atarazana, the ruins of San Francisco, the Malecon, the Palacio of Fine Arts, and the Universidad Autonoma of Santo Domingo (UASD), which was the first university of the New World, founded unofficially by a Papal bill in 1538, officially by royal decree in 1558.

Delta Vacations Announces Dominican Republic Growth

During a news conference at the 2014 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, Delta Vacations highlighted the growth in bookings it has experienced in recent years. The conference was held at the Paradisus Palma Real Convention Center.

Steven Bradley, MLT Vacations’ product manager for the Dominican Republic, says much of Delta Vacations’ growth in Punta Cana is from Delta’s two main domestic gateways, New York and Atlanta.

“Between 2011 and 2013, bookings to Punta Cana from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Atlanta have seen strong triple digit growth,” says Bradley.

Included in these bookings are substantial increases in specialty vacations, such as destination weddings and honeymoons. Delta Vacations’ destination weddings business more than quadrupled between 2011 and 2013. Honeymoon vacations increased five-fold and bookings for adults-only properties nearly doubled during the same period. With Delta Vacations, agents and their clients can choose from dozens of resorts that offer destination weddings, and nearly 40 properties that cater to honeymooners.

Delta Vacations confirms wedding dates, times and ceremony locations, and ensures travel agents and couples are in contact with onsite wedding planners well in advance.

Along with up to 3,000 bonus miles per person, in addition to credited flight miles through the SkyMiles program, Delta Vacations’ destination weddings and honeymoon packages include roundtrip transfers between airport and hotel, luggage handling at hotel, maid and/or bellman gratuities and all hotel taxes.

Delta Vacations offers family, romance, luxury and other specialty vacation packages to four Dominican Republic destinations: Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, La Romana and Samana.