February 10, 2004
  • Mission Possible-Canada + DR
  • Air Madrid announces flights for May
  • Less Dominican travel
  • Zoe Saldana visits
  • Ocean World - the place to visit
Mission Possible-Canada + DR
Canadian Ambassador in the Dominican Republic Adam Blackwell and the president of the Dominican-Canadian Chamber of Commerce Fernando Rainieri met with the press last week and revealed that 1.5% of people living in Canada visited the Dominican Republic in 2003. "I know that these are difficult times, but we have to look at the positive side, find areas of excellence and build on these with determination and energy," said Blackwell. He mentioned that 115 flights arrive from Canada to Dominican airports each week, translating to 400,000 Canadian visitors per season and increased traffic this winter season by nearly 50% over last year. "What is incredible is that these flights are coming from all the provinces and two territories. Some of these take more time than transatlantic flights," he said, highlighting that this is the second boom of Canadian tourism to the Dominican Republic. He said that Fernando Rainieri, the president of the Dominican-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, frequently reminds him that Canadians were the pioneers of tourism in Puerto Plata, where tourism got its first start in the country. Now, 25 years later, a new wave of popularity has surged bringing hundreds of thousands of Canadian tourists. During the meeting, Blackwell announced Canadian efforts to contribute to the design of a strategic plan for the area, for which he praised the efforts of the DR's Tourism Ministry. Blackwell explained that Canadians are not only coming because of the increased value of their money given the depreciation of the peso or because of the cold Canadian winters. "They are coming because there is a great affinity with Dominicans because they find a hardworking and hospitable people, there is important infrastructure, great variety of accommodation offers, beaches, mountains, golf courses, culture and history," he said. Blackwell hopes to move ahead and convince Four Seasons, Fairmont, Delta and Legacy hotel chains to begin Dominican operations. Blackwell, to his credit, has already convinced Canadian airlines to start regular flights to the Dominican Republic, something deemed "mission impossible" only months ago.
Air Madrid announces flights for May
Air Madrid has announced the start of flights to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from Madrid as of 14 May during the Fitur travel fair in Madrid. The company also announced plans to launch flights to Puerto Plata in the near future. The airline expects to compete with Air Europa and Iberia by discounting fares 25%. Herminio Gil, a former vice-president and shareholder at Air Europa, is the founder of the new airline, whose main shareholders are retailer Eroski and hotel groups Hotusa, Catalonia and Celuisma. Catalonia operates a hotel in Punta Cana area. In addition to the Punta Cana flight, Air Madrid announced it would also commence flights to Varadero, Cuba and San Jose, Costa Rica from Madrid. Air Madrid is based in the Spanish capital and will employ Airbus A330-200/300 aircraft. Gil told the Spanish press that passengers today want a comfortable seat and safety guarantees. According to him, the company will keep costs down by using a single type of aircraft, flying newer aircraft to keep fuel costs low and subcontracting a good part of services. Gil hopes to grab 20% of the market, flying 300,000 passengers in its first year.
Less Dominican travel
Leisure travel of Dominicans abroad has declined by as much as 50%. The steep decline is earning concern in the industry, as Dominican travel for years now has filled many seats on outgoing flights, contributing to spur interest of airlines in adding new flights to the DR. Dominicans are traveling less abroad now that the peso has declined to more than RD$50 to US$1. The 150 agencies belonging to IATA reported that sales fell by nearly RD$68 million from October to December of 2003. Ticket prices have nearly doubled over the same time period. Last November, a trip to New York City from the DR cost approximately RD$10,000. Today, however, the same trip would cost upwards of RD$22,000 and airfare to Europe would go for RD$50,000 or more. Travel agencies are still shaking from the new payment demands being required by the airlines. Payment is now to be made weekly, rather than bi-weekly, as was the custom. According to the report by Diana de Miguel in Diario Libre, 25% of all travel agencies are on the brink of ruin, and El Caribe reported on Saturday that 250 agencies have closed their doors.
Zoe Saldana visits
Dominican-origin Hollywood starlet Zoe Saldana visited Santo Domingo last week for vacation time with her family. Saldana made her motion picture debut as the defiant ballerina Eva in the drama "Center Stage" and her last cinematic appearance was in Steven Spielberg's new film "The Terminal," in which she co-starred with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Born and raised in New Jersey and New York, she moved with her family to the DR when she was 10 years old and lived her initial teenage years here training in dance with Dilia Mieses at Ritmos Espacio de Danza Academy, where she studied ballet, jazz and modern and Latin dance. She returned to New York for 10th grade. Other Saldana films include "Pirates of the Caribbean" (2003), "Crossroads" (2002), "Drumline" (2002), and "Snipes" (2002).
Ocean World - the place to visit
Ocean World Park is quickly establishing itself as the place to visit when touring the North Coast and even a reason alone for choosing Puerto Plata as a vacation destination. Located in Cofresi, west of Puerto Plata, the attraction features the largest dolphin lagoon, the only sea lion encounter of its kind, the world's first shark interaction pool, tigers, birds, shows and much more. The success of the park is a testament to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) findings that Americans have steadily increased their visits to theme and amusement parks since 1996. According to the TIA's Domestic Travel Market Report (2003 Edition), visits to theme and amusement attractions increased 17% in the last seven years. The report also explains how these travelers tend to average more overnight stays and spend more money per household on their trips, compared with overall travelers. For more information on Ocean World, see:

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