Punta Cana’s dominance of Dominican tourism is not about to weaken. Far from it, in fact. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) “welcomes two-thirds of all international visitors to the Dominican Republic,” yet much of the news at last week’s DATE, or Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, was about how quickly other regions are growing in the D.R. What follows is just the tip of the (tropical) iceberg:
- Delta Vacations (MLT) reported double-digit growth to all five of the Dominican destinations it serves: Santo Domingo, La Romana, Punta Cana, Samana, and Puerto Plata. That’s about twice the annual tourism growth of the country as a whole—a Caribbean region-leading 5.8 percent. “This year we will add ten more hotels in Punta Cana,” said Caribbean product developer Karen Kammer, and that’s just one corner of the country where Delta Vacations is growing.
- Travel to Santo Domingo, in particular, is going gangbusters, thanks to the Colonial Zone’s impressive restorations and the new highways that connect the capital to resort areas. New shops, restaurants, lounges, and hotels (e.g. the Intercontinental, debuting in July) are opening, and existing hotels are upgrading. Delta Vacations, for example, reported that its Santo Domingo business is up 50 percent.
- As part of the expansion of tourism beyond Punta Cana, Puerto Plata is restoring its historic center, debuting a new tourist newspaper and website, completing a local awareness campaign “Smile! You are Puerto Plata,” unveiling new hotels (e.g. Sunscape Puerto Plata), and, thanks to Amber Cove, welcoming a bumper crop of cruise ship passengers. FYI, JetBlue now flies nonstop from JFK to Puerto Plata.
- In 2015, more than 400 hotel rooms debuted on the Samana Peninsula, thanks especially to the Luxury Bahia Principe Samana and Viva Wyndham V Samana, one of the three resorts where this reporter stayed just before DATE. There’s more to come, too. For example, in September 2017 locally owned Amhsa Marina Hotels & Resorts will open the 336-room Kaaeni Beach Hotel, a $50 million all-inclusive and “an important step for our chain,” said Louis Lopez, president of Amhsa Marina Hotels & Resorts, “because it moves us into five-star hotel level.” Like Puerto Plata, Samana has also launched a new, interactive website.
- Another locally owned company, Hodelpa, which owns several urban hotels, has also invested in Juan Dolio, a beach area between Santo Domingo and La Romana. The sleek, contemporary decor and adults-only VIP option at Emotions by Hodelpa has been so successful that Hodelpa is converting a former Melia in Juan Dolio to a Sensations by Hodelpa, an upscale, adults-only all-inclusive (opening 2017) with a serious approach to gastronomy. In addition, Hodelpa is now working with Travel Impressions and other tour operators.
The take-away for travel advisors? New destinations and resorts in a country that continues to outdo itself. For more information, visit drdate.net.