By TBY | Dominican Republic | Aug 31, 2014
Blue Sky Thinking
Blue Sky Thinking
GLOBAL CONNECTIONS According to the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, a total of 4.69 million non-residents arrived by air in 2013, peaking in March at 500,712 visitors. The overall […]
According to the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, a total of 4.69 million non-residents arrived by air in 2013, peaking in March at 500,712 visitors. The overall figure indicated growth of 2.7% YoY, up from 4.56 million in 2012. The country boasts a total of eight international airports, with two in the capital of Santo Domingo and the remainder scattered around key touristic regions such as Punta Cana, Barahona, La Romana, Puerto Plata, Sánchez, and Santiago. The busiest port of entry is Punta Cana International Airport, located in the picturesque eastern beach resort. It has received more than 2 million visitors over the past three years, passing the 2.5 million mark in 2013. Las Américas International Airport, serving the capital, Santo Domingo, serves over a million tourists per year, and is connected by an expressway that crosses the Ozama River, constructed by Colombian firm Autopistas del Nordeste. Its busiest routes include New York, Miami, and Madrid, and the largest airlineoperating there is JetBlue Airways. The growth of traffic is reflected in some of the major airlines’ expansionary policies, with Delta increasing from four to five flights daily between JFK and Las Américas from June to September 2014. The runway was extensively refurbished from 2007 to 2009, and is one of the few Caribbean airports now easily capable of accommodating an Airbus A380.
The majority of tourist passengers arriving via Dominican airports are from North America. Figures from January 2012 and 2013 show that in both years over 200,000 citizens from the US, Canada, and Mexico arrived via air, and made up around 55% of all tourist arrivals in both years. Europe is another important source market, with around 120,000 visitors from Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Russia, among others, arriving in the same month. Other regions show steady, moderate growth and strong potential for the future.
INDICATIONS OF SUCCESS
Statistics provided by the World Travel & Tourism Council show that the direct contribution of the tourism sector to GDP was 4.7% in 2012, and was expected to rise by approximately 3.5% in 2013. Central Bank numbers show that the number of people employed in hotels, bars, and restaurants reached 183,262 in the same year, up from 174,500 in 2012. Since the year 2000, employment in the sector has increased by 54%. In parallel with this consistent growth, foreign investment has risen significantly. By June 2013, the Center for Exports and Investment of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) registered an accumulation of $1.5 billion in investment across different sectors, with touristic developments representing a significant proportion of this amount. Spanish firms were behind approximately 60% of hotel assets in 2012, but a key trend in incoming capital for the sector has been the upsurge of interest from Venezuelan companies. “Sambil Santo Domingo is the biggest shopping center in the Dominican Republic; it is our first shopping center outside of Venezuela and we look to bring our many years of experience and knowhow,” explained Salomon Cohen Bouchara, Executive Director of Sambil, in conversation with TBY. Other major chains such as Blue Mall are expanding their presence in the country.
The average length of stay for visitors in 2013 was 8.45 nights, according to Central Bank statistics. Guests spent an average of $124.89 per day. Overall occupancy rates for hotels over the course of the year was 71.7%, with numbers peaking in the first quarter, as usual. Due to its attractive all-inclusive packages, Punta Cana hoteliers enjoyed the highest rates in the nation, with first quarter numbers hovering around the 90% occupancy mark, and the annual figure rounding out at 79.4%. La Romana-Bayahíbe hotels averaged at 77.4%, and Samana, in the northeast of the country, had a respectable 75% with a peak of 91% in February. The higher tourist numbers in the first quarter come in large part from ‘winter sun’ packages that entice North Americans and Europeans.
Many of these visitors arrive on cruise ships. The Dominican Republic rates highly in this segment, and the Caribbean in general is the world’s foremost cruise ship destination. The country boasts numerous ports of different capacities. Those of La Romana and Samana received the most visitors in the country, with 252,932 arriving to the former and 112,424 to the latter in 2013. Samana welcomed almost 50,000 more visitors than in 2012. Santo Domingo receives a lower number of cruise passengers, with just 58,267 arriving in 2013. However, its two major ports, Don Diego and Sans Souci, are established points of entry. Don Diego’s 400-meter pier and dual terminals are located near the old city, while Sans Souci’s smaller and more modern facility offers a sophisticated reception for urban explorers.
In keeping with a broader theme emerging in the Caribbean cruise ship industry, Carnival Corporation and Grupo B&R have commissioned design firm Atkins to work on a $65 million cruise center named Amber Cove. Countries across the region are adding to existing ports or constructing brand new major ports to accommodate the ever-increasing size of the ships. Eight new significant port projects are underway in Caribbean countries, in response to demand for new destinations from repeat customers. Amber Cove is located near Puerto Plata, and will comprise 30 acres of coastal real estate with a two-berth dock. The region will be reinvigorated by the development, which will transform the north into a cruise ship destination to rival those of the southern and northeastern provinces.