Radhames Martinez Aponte, the Dominican Republic’s vice minister of tourism, said Thursday morning (May 4th) that the official opening of Secrets Cap Cana was on the beach, so it was hot. A fitting comment for DATE (the Dominican Annual Tourism Exposition), because the entire Dominican Republic is hot, and it keeps getting hotter. And we’re not just talking temperatures:

  • 2016 was a record year, with the country welcoming almost 6 million visitors.
  • At the same time, 5,500 new hotel rooms opened. That’s another record.
  • In spite of all those new hotel rooms, room occupancy was up.
  • Another 3,200 hotel rooms were renovated.
  • Santo Domingo is hot in its own right, welcoming about half a million visitors in 2016 (would you ever have predicted that a decade ago?) and now boasting 27 luxury hotels —with more to come.

So where does the D.R. go from there? Joel Santos Echevarria, president of ASONAHORES (La Asociación de Hoteles y Turismo de la República Dominicana) reiterated that the Dominican tourism industry’s goal is for 10 million visitors a year, “so we need another 65,000 hotel rooms.” He’s confident that will happen, too. As Martinez pointed out, almost 7,000 additional rooms are under construction now, and another 8,000 are in the pipeline.

They will not all be in Punta Cana, either. “We have to develop other tourism destinations because you can’t just crowd everyone onto the southern coast,” said Santos. “Amber Cove, the new Carnival port in Puerto Plata, has fueled an increase in cruise passenger visits, with 830,000 passengers in 2016, and we’ll surpass that with more than 1 million this year.”

Royalton CHIC Punta Cana
The beach at Royalton CHIC Punta Cana, one of the Dominican Republic’s new crop of hotels. (Photo courtesy: Ed Wetschler)

At the same time there are more than 600 new hotel rooms in Puerto Plata, and others are being renovated. “We have crossed that threshold for recovery in Puerto Plata,” declared Martinez.

“Tourism in the Dominican Republic has been undergoing a value-added process. The visitor doesn’t just come here to stay at a hotel, but to go explore,” explained Santos. And it’s not just Santo Domingo. “We’re seeing a diversification of our destinations, and we are not just sand and sun.” The FAMs for agents, he added, reflect that.

For more information, visit godominicanrepublic.com.