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Dominican Republic displays its competitive edge

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  •   05-26-2015  11:28 am

Dominican Republic displays its competitive edge

The annual Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) conference was held April 28-30, giving tour operators, travel agents and meeting planners a glimpse of the Dominican Republic’s newest travel initiatives. Hosted at Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort Convention Center in Punta Cana by the Dominican Republic’s Association of Hotels and Tourism, Inc. (ASONAHORES), the three-day event highlighted the key strength of Dominican Republic’s tourism, as well as focused on new destinations.

Presided over by Vice Minister of Tourism Radhames Martínez Aponte, the conference noted that this Caribbean nation is still leading the region in tourism.

“In 2014, there was a 9.6 per cent growth in tourism in the Dominican Republic, versus a 6.6 per cent growth in the rest of the Caribbean,” Aponte said. “In the first three months of this year, there’s already been a 7.4 per cent growth rate, one of the highest in the Caribbean this quarter.”

On the floor at DATEWhile coastal resort areas like Punta Cana remain one of the leading reasons for the net gain, the conference discussed how Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata are poised to capture much interest from travellers. Recently Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital, has seen North American brands such as JW Marriott, Embassy Suites and Ramada enter its market. With 122 rooms and 28 suites, the JW Marriott in Santo Domingo, which opened in August 2014, is the luxury brand’s first foray in the Caribbean. Focused on a business clientele, the hotel boasts more than 2,938-square-feet of flexible meeting space.

To the north, additional projects are also on the horizon. With WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing all offering direct flights to the Dominican Republic, the northern coast has long been a tropical destination for Canadian residents.

And coming in October, there will be more reasons to visit that area.

Carnival Cruise Line is investing nearly $85 million to build a port at Puerto Plata. The Amber Cove port is schedule to welcome the first ship, Carnival Victory, on Oct. 6. The new destination represents the largest cruise industry investment ever made in the Dominican Republic, as well as the most expensive transit port in Carnival’s portfolio. The facility will offer two berths that can accommodate up to two large post-Panamax cruise ships simultaneously. After it is completed, six of Carnival’s nine brands will call on Amber Cove to port.

Amber Cove will feature dramatic architectural elements that echo the area’s storied colonial past. Situated on a cove with both mountain and sea views, the port will have cobblestone plazas with a variety of retailers, even welcoming local artisans and craftsman to take up shop. Additional amenities include a pool, six over-the-water cabanas and a mini-splash park. There will even be an elevated bar, located 80 feet above the ground, which will boast panoramic views of Puerto Plata. More importantly, as Carnival executives emphasize, the port is only a brief introduction to the region as a whole.

“Amber Cove is the gateway to Puerto Plata,” said David Candib, vice-president of development and operations of Carnival Corp.’s global port and destination development group. “The port isn’t the destination; Puerto Plata is. We want to get the 8,000 passengers to see the aspects of the region that’s offered today and will be offered in the future.”

The region of Puerto Plata is undergoing a massive marketing campaign, headed by the Ashonorte, the North Coast of the Dominican Republic’s association of hotels, restaurants and touring companies. With a motto of “Sonrie Eres Puerto Plata” (Smile You are Puerto Plata), the province with nearly 500,000 residents is continuing to develop as a tourist destination. In addition to the city of Puerto Plata, key coastal towns in the region include Cabarete and Sosua. The Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, which takes place annually on those three beaches, has long been considered an internationally vital celebration of jazz and Latin music. Inaugurated in 1992, the festival has since hosted top jazz artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nestor Torres, Ramón Vázquez and Stanley Jordan. Even noted jazz singer Colin Hunter, who doubles as Sunwing's founder and chairman, has performed on the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival stage.

The conference also highlighted the country’s northeast as another key tourist region. Soon-to-open resorts include the V Samaná, the newest property from Viva Wyndham Resorts. Located in Las Terrenas in the northeast, this all-inclusive resort is marketed to millennials and combines hip elegance with a relaxed yet active, modern vibe. The adults-only beachfront resort will open in November 2015. With 144 rooms, the V Samaná will feature complimentary WiFi, fresh-to-table vegetables and herbs, market-style dining and on-site juicing.

“V Samaná will appeal to the growing number of modern, style-conscious travelers for whom atmosphere, attitude and experience are inseparable,” said Ettore Colussi, president of Viva Wyndham Resorts.

In the nearby town region of Samaná, Amhsa Marina Hotels & Resorts will construct a 140-room all-inclusive property in Las Galeras. The $25 million resort will also be adults-only and “guests will have full access to the facilities offered by the Grand Paradise Samaná, situated next to the new facility,” said Luis Lopez, president of the Dominican hotel chain.

With plenty of accolades and statistics to be proud of, the DATE conference showed that tourism officials in the Dominican Republic aren’t resting on their laurels as the premier Caribbean destination. With new properties being built and renovations to current ones, it looks as if the Dominican Republic will keep ahead of the pack in the Caribbean.

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