Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Wed November 18 2015

Dominican Tourism Reaches its 'Greatest Moment,' Says Minister

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | November 18, 2015

Dominican Tourism Reaches its 'Greatest Moment,' Says Minister

PHOTO: UNESCO has established a management plan to guide preservation and sustainable development in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. (photo by Brian Major)

The Caribbean’s number one destination is hotter than ever. Visitor arrivals in the Dominican Republic grew 15 percent in October and will increase by 10 percent by the end of 2015, said Francisco Javier Garcia, the country’s tourism minister. Garcia said Dominican tourism is at “the greatest moment in (its) history.”

Speaking at the opening of a tourism conference focused on the country’s coastal and marine environments, Garcia said Dominican Republic arrivals also increased 17 percent in September. To date the country has hosted 4,592,854 arrivals, an 8.9 percent increase over 2014 according to data from the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, which tracks visitor arrivals data.

The Dominican Republic hosted 2,378,348 arrivals between January and May, a 6.8 percent increase over 2014, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data.

Garcia predicts the country will achieve a 10 percent arrivals increase by year’s end, a development which would extend the destination’s already dominant position among Caribbean nations. Last year the Dominican Republic hosted 5.14 million overnight arrivals, a 9.6 percent increase over 2013 according to CTO. The next-closest CTO-tracked countries, Cuba and Jamaica, hosted 3.0 million and 2.0 million visitors respectively.

The soaring arrivals follow numerous government and private initiatives to expand tourism across the country, beyond the booming Punta Cana all-inclusive resort district. A variety of projects are underway in the capital city of Santo Domingo as well as in the Puerto Plata region on the country’s northern coast.

In September, the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) issued a management plan to guide preservation and sustainable development initiatives in the “Zona Colonial” district of the Dominican Republic’s historic capital city of Santo Domingo.

The Zona Colonial, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the first permanent establishment for 15th century European explorers in the Americas, and the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas.

The Dominican government and tourism ministry have directed an ongoing restoration of historic Zona Colonial streets and buildings. The UNESCO plan seeks to engage public and private stakeholders in additional strategies to preserve the historic district while coordinating management of growing tourist visits.

In Puerto Plata, cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation recently opened an $85 million, purpose-built cruise ship facility. A popular destination in an earlier era of Dominican tourism, Puerto Plata is another historic city with attractions that include an amber museum and the Caribbean’s only aerial tramway, which takes visitors to the summit of 2,601-foot high Pico Isabel de Torres. A seaside amphitheater has been built adjacent to Fortaleza San Felipe, a 15th century fortress.

Puerto Plata’s historic center is also undergoing a major renovation. The surrounding region features new bars, restaurants and cultural venues such as the Camilo Brugal Art Gallery.

In Samana, another northeastern tourist region, hoteliers have launched 500 new rooms this year. Other properties scheduled for 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.

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