Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Fri May 15 2015

Dominican Republic Tourism Official Outlines Country's Rapid Visitor Growth

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | May 15, 2015

Dominican Republic Tourism Official Outlines Country's Rapid Visitor Growth

A top Dominican Republic tourism official this week outlined what has been apparent for years: Leisure travel to the country is booming. 

Tourist arrivals in the country by air grew by 30.7 percent between 2010 and 2014, representing more than one million visitors, said Simon Suarez, president of Asonahores, the Dominican Republic’s hotel and tourism association. The average annual increase of six percent “exceed[ed] the average predicted for the world and Caribbean tourism sectors,” he said, and occurred “despite the stormy economic situation that impacted Europe and the United States.”

The growth has continued in 2015, with a 5.4 percent increase in international air arrivals between January and March compared with the same period in 2014. In all, the Dominican Republic recorded 1.5 million overnight, land-based visitors in the first quarter of 2015, the most of any destination tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Suarez cited government investment in tourism-related infrastructure and marketing, plus private investment in hospitality projects, as keys to the country’s surging tourism growth.

Infrastructure initiatives have been highlighted by the construction of the Samana highway system in the northeast region, and the current upgrading of eastern and southwest road networks. The new roads have expanded access to various regions of the country from the anchor Punta Cana resort district.

Suarez said the Dominican government has also upgraded highways connecting the capital city of Santo Domingo with resort areas on the north coast. The government has also announced an extension of the highway to Puerto Plata, another growing tourist region.

The country’s tourist arrivals growth has in turn sparked increased private investment in hospitality ventures, said Suarez. “More than 4,500 new [hotel] rooms are currently under construction and will be ready by 2016 and 2017,” he said. Recently opened hotels include the Embassy Suites by Hilton, JW Marriott Santo Domingo and the Boutique Bellini Hotel, all of which were launched within the past year in Santo Domingo.

The government is also nearing completion of a multi-million dollar restoration of the Dominican capital’s historic colonial district. In addition to the rehabilitation of the area’s historic buildings and cobblestone streets, new hotels from Sheraton, Ramada and Radisson have recently opened. New colonial district attractions include a “4D” cinema featuring tourism-related films and cultural events.

Puerto Plata’s historic center is also undergoing a major renovation. In addition to attractions that include what is billed as the Caribbean’s only mountaintop cable car, the region features new bars, restaurants and cultural venues including the Camilo Brugal art gallery, said Suarez. Carnival Corporation’s $85 million purpose-built cruise ship port, Amber Cove, is scheduled to open in the region in October.

In Samana, another northeastern tourist region, hoteliers have launched 500 new rooms this year. Other properties scheduled to launch in 2015 include an all-inclusive, adults-only Viva Wyndham resort and the Bahia Principe Samana Hotel, a luxury property from the Bahia Principe chain.

In all 2,070 hotel rooms are currently under construction around the country. “The short and medium-range outlook of the Dominican tourism industry is extremely positive,” said Suarez.  

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