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Paola Rainieri de Diaz, president of Asonahores (the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic). (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.)

Last week Paola Rainieri de Diaz announced that the Dominican Republic is currently getting almost 20 percent of all visitors to the Caribbean region. Moreover, said Rainieri, the president of Asonahores (the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic) at a press conference during the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE), the country plans to generate yet more growth. Here are some highlights from her presentation:

  • Arrivals in 2018 increased by 6.2 percent, which is not just above the average for the Caribbean; it also surpasses the global average. Furthermore, 2019 is on pace to continue that trend. The actual number of arrivals was 6.5 million.
  • Growth from North America, the D.R.’s primary market, exceeded 8 percent in 2018. So if you feel as if your bookings for Dominican hotels have increased, you’re not just imagining things.
  • Occupancy rates improved from 77.1 percent to 77.6 percent, and that’s despite the fact that 4,365 new hotel rooms came online, raising total hotel room inventory above 80,000.
  • “Dominican cuisine has been evolving, and within hotels, Dominican products always get included,” said Rainieri. I, for one, am pleased to see this, because the D.R.’s extremes in altitude enable it to grow not just tropical produce, but also high-quality crops that other islands must import (e.g. strawberries). She added that these days, “Every hotel has Dominican food.”
  • This reporter had noticed how hard it has gotten to find covers for paper take-out coffee cups in the hotels, and sure enough, said Rainieri, “We are implementing policies that can guarantee sustainability.” After all, she explained, “Natural resources are what we offer.”
  • The country also offers cultural resources—and increasingly so, as evidenced by the ongoing restorations and improvements in downtowns, especially that of Santo Domingo. These include an enormous upgrade in the Malecon that include a bike path, facilities for recreation, parking areas, an amphitheater, facilities for people with disabilities, and new lighting. Naturally, the rebirth of the Colonial Zone has jump-started upgrades to the airport and the debuts of new hotels, bars, clubs, attractions, and restaurants that range from bustling Pat’e Paulo to peaceful Cafe Buho, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed during DATE. Speaking of restaurants, Santo Domingo has claimed the title of Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean.
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    The courtyard at Hostal Nicolas de Obando. (Photo credit: Ed Wetschler.)

    In addition, the city is increasingly marketing itself as a MICE destination, said Roberto Henriquez, president of AHSD, the Hotel Association of Santo Domingo. And this is not just for business-oriented groups. It seems that every Santo Domingo hotel I’ve stayed in now has a wedding planner.

  • Next project for the D.R.? Rainieri wants to encourage a regional approach to generating more multi-island vacations. “In the coming months,” she declared, “we will insist upon this idea through the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.”

For more information visit godominicanrepublic.comFor alerts about four large all-inclusives in the Punta Cana area, see