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Daily News - 12 June 1998

On President Fernández's meeting at the White House
It is likely that apparel production at Dominican industrial free zones will receive a boost by year's end. During a meeting with President Leonel Fernández at the White House, President Bill Clinton agreed to include the Dominican Republic in a trade agreement with Africa, that is expected to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate prior to the end of this year. As explained, the DR, and other Caribbean nations and Central America, will be included in the bill. As a result, they will benefit from the same trade conditions Mexico received as signatory of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
President Leonel Fernández and President Bill Clinton met at the White House for about 45 minutes on June 11. Textile parity was high on the agenda as DR has been affected by the quota-less and duty-free conditions Mexico is offering to US textile contractors.
But the Presidents also discussed the repatriation of Dominicans that have sentences pending in the US, the extradition of Dominicans sought by US justice, drug trafficking across the Haitian frontier, the preferential sugar quota, and the foreign debt with the US.
President Fernández described the meeting as "transcendental." He said that it was a historic meeting where the friendship and fraternity ties that exist between the US and the DR were reaffirmed. President Fernández also highlighted that the invitation to visit the White House was received following his participation in the UN Drug Summit held in New York City.
"... I believe it is a recognition to Dominican efforts to advance human rights, strengthen democratic institutions and be part of the international community," said President Fernández.
In a press conference at the end of his meeting with President Clinton, President Fernández said that he requested assistance from President Clinton to be able to guide Dominicans that are being repatriated for crimes committed in the US, primarily drug trafficking, to help them re integrate into Dominican society. President Fernández explained the local concern with effectively dealing with these US-trained delinquents and the fear these may bring to Dominican society previously unknown violent crimes and an increase in the illicit drug trade due to the skills acquired in the US. So far this year, the US has deported 719 delinquents. It is estimated that almost one million Dominicans live in the US.
President Fernández said that there is the will in his government to continue extraditing criminals required by US justice. He said that his government will continue to promote a bill that will provide the legal framework for extraditions. While the US and the DR signed an extradition treaty in 1909, a 1961 law prohibits the extradition of Dominicans. As a result, several Dominicans who have broken the law in the US have returned to the DR to escape fulfilling their sentences.
The Presidents also discussed the request by the Dominican government that the US assist the DR with new technology to patrol the border with Haiti. The frontier with Haiti is one of the most vulnerable points for introducing drugs into the DR for later shipment to Puerto Rico and then to the US. The DR has also requested assistance in training personnel to effectively combat drug contraband across the DR frontier with Haiti.
President Clinton promised to interfere in favor of the DR so that the Dominican quota in the US preferential sugar market is not reduced.
President Fernández said he also emphasized the impact of the foreign debt has on the DR economy. He said he requested that the US, through the Department of Treasury, study establishing some novel form regarding the DR foreign debt with the US that would be beneficial for the DR economy.
"President Clinton told us that he wants to help the DR because he is aware that we are doing a great effort so that the country can become modern and play a leadership role in the Caribbean and Central America," said President Fernández.
Present at the meeting with Clinton for the Dominican government were Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Latorre; Secretary of the Presidency Danilo Medina; Technical Secretary of the Presidency Temístocles Montás; DR Ambassador before the US Bernardo Vega; and Minister of the Armed Forces, Paulino Alvarez. President Clinton was accompanied by presidential drug advisor General Barry McCaffrey, and Thomas McClarty, advisor to the White House on Latin American and Caribbean affairs. General McCaffrey recently visited President Fernández in the DR.

Occupancy down, revenues up
The Hotel Association forecasts a drop of 10 to 15% in total hotel occupancy this year. Nevertheless, the Association said that total revenues will be up due to rate increases.
The decline in occupancy is attributed to an expected drop from 220,000 to 150,000 arrivals from the United Kingdom. Less British visitors will come this year as a result of negative press the destination received in the UK that focused on hygiene considerations in Dominican hotels.
Rumbo news weekly magazine reported that the British press reports on tourists that were allegedly ill with stomach problems after visiting DR can be in part attributed to the fact that British tour operators, that were late in contracting rooms in Dominican hotels to respond to the surge in demand as the DR became the "in" destination for British tourists in 1997, lowered their standards and contracted rooms in bargain priced hotels not taking into consideration these did not offer the appropriate food handling for large groups of visitors. More so, the magazine explained that several tourists took advantage of the situation to, even when not having gotten sick, request a refund for their vacation from the tour operator.
Noteworthy is the fact that the boom of the DR destination had directly affected the traditional vacation sites for British tourists, the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean. These islands stood the most to gain from the inflated claims against Dominican health standards.
Marino Ginebra, president of the Hotel Association, told Hoy newspaper that hotel occupancy was a high 80% last year and forecast a 70% occupancy rate by year's end.
Ginebra said that the hotel occupancy of the first five months of the year surpassed that of last year, but that the decline in British travelers will be most felt in May and June, the start of the summer season.
On the positive side, he said that the hotels are charging higher rates. He explained that while occupancy will be down, profitability will be up.
Hotel Association statistics show that during the first five months of the year, air arrivals were 1,116,120 passengers, or 12.66% more in relation to the 990,711 of last year. Of these 842,116 are foreigners, or 15.88% more than last year. From January to May of 1997, some 726,685 visitors came by air.
The Hotel Association expects German travelers to reach 385,000, down from the peak year 425,000.
Another factor affecting occupancy this year, is that there are almost 3,000 new hotel rooms on the market.
Ginebra also explained that Santo Domingo is experiencing an increase in hotel occupancy at the same time that the city hotels are able to charge more for their services. He said that the better city hotels are now charging upwards of US$100 a night, and that occupancy is up 13%. He attributed the increase to the fact that very few new hotel rooms have been added to the city inventory, and that there has been an increase in the number of business travelers to the city. Another factor positively affecting city hotel occupancy is the fact that several major chains that have beach hotels have purchased hotels in Santo Domingo so that their tourists can come on city packages. Ginebra also attributed the increase in stays in Santo Domingo to the promotional campaign carried out by the Dominican government abroad.

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