May 4, 2004
  • Playa Dorada goes back to its origins
  • DATE fills expectations
  • Starz bets on culture and environment
  • Coral by Hilton backs environment
  • DATE 2005 set for Santo Domingo
  • Viva Wyndham’s new darling in Cabarete
Playa Dorada goes back to its origins
During the first years after the Playa Dorada hotels opened in the mid 70s, the north coast beach destination attracted an affluent middle class well traveled Americans, interested in the new Caribbean experience. Thousands of US tourists came, many even returning to purchase real estate, leading to the first boom of the area. Gradually price wars, the adoption of the all-inclusive model and fierce competition led to the sacrificing of quality to maintain high occupancies. But now north coast hoteliers are committed to do a 180 degree turnaround and have been making the necessary investments. Major investments in promotion, the purchase of the golf course, construction of the Playa Dorada convention center climaxed last week with the celebration of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange when the tour operators that sell the DR were brought as a group to see for themselves the new Playa Dorada.
Playa Dorada now seeks to capitalize on an asset that has been there all the time – the diversity of all there is to do and see to east, south or west, in the entire province of Puerto Plata. Thus, the push with the new slogan: “Feel the experience, in and around.” Ventura Serra, president of Occidental Hotels in the DR, a major partner in Puerto Plata’s future, has inspired his fellow hoteliers to make the leap. The company has four hotels in Playa Dorada. While Occidental hotels are in Playa Dorada, Serra stresses that they now are selling Puerto Plata and going beyond to sell Sosua and Cabarete.
Speaking at DATE, Serra admits that Puerto Plata got a second chance when excess demand by US tourists in 2003 for Punta Cana on the East Coast of the DR resulted in tour operators selling their clients on a second choice in the DR – Puerto Plata. Serra says the hotels lived up to the challenge, by investing in staff training and upgrading services in food and entertainment areas.
The tourists that came liked what they saw and now Puerto Plata hoteliers feel they are again riding on their own worth. Johnny Bernal, president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, said at DATE that two clear signs that things are working are that there are hotels in the area that have sold out for summer, and that tour operators are accepting guaranteed sales for hotel bookings. The hoteliers also credit the Ministry of Tourism with standing behind Puerto Plata in its negotiations for promotion funds with tour operators.
“We have to stop grading our successes in numbers of tourists, and more in average room rate and what our visitors are spending here,” said Ventura Serra, the leader of the movement to revitalize the destination of Puerto Plata. 50% occupancy at US$200 a day/room is much better for the business, the environment and the community than 95% occupancy at US$100 a day. That is the new challenge the hoteliers have accepted, and this time around their ace card is the diversity of town, natural and fun attractions within around half an hour from Playa Dorada.
DATE fills expectations
Johnny Bernal, president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, said at a press conference in Puerto Plata last Friday that DATE Puerto Plata had filled all expectations. An estimated 10% more buyers came this year, and buyers were impressed by the comprehensive approach to selling the destination while offering guests a comfortable place to stay.
Bernal admitted they have come a long way. He said that Playa Dorada mistakenly turned its back to the community as it evolved in the 90s. “What should have been its greatest strength turned into dead weight,” said Bernal. “Everyone in Puerto Plata depends on tourism, from the town seamstress, to the man who peddles lottery tickets, to the boy who washes cars, all feel it when travel is down.” But he explains, “It had to take a crisis to raise the awareness.” Bernal highlighted that DATE has served to commit hoteliers to the new scheme of development of the north coast tourism pole. The Thursday Dominican night in the Central Park impressed the attendants for the concentrating of the culture and heritage of Puerto Plata in the park square, the excellent Dominican food delicacies, finest of dinner settings, and the Familia Andre music, excellent fireworks show, all in the framework of 100 years of history, a combination that brought tears to the eyes of many.
“We are all committed now to focus more on the town and community experience. When one travels, one is not traveling to a hotel, the hotel is in second and third place to the experience, one does not want to be enclosed. Dominicans are hospitable by nature, and our visitors want that cultural experience,” said Bernal.
Culture is good business, rumors that buyers booking on Friday, after the Thursday Dominican night, were willing to pay up to 20% more on average for room rates, now firmly convinced Puerto Plata is a great product.
Starz bets on culture and environment
Starz Resorts announced during the Dominican Annual Travel Exchange the agreement with Counterpart International for the establishment of the first coral gardens in the Dominican Republic. The program fosters the renewing of coral reefs in the area. Sosua promotes itself as a diving and snorkeling destination and coral reefs are an essential part of its product. Company spokesman, Hans Dannenberg highlighted that the program is part of the new focus of the hotel industry worldwide that gives priority to contributing to the community. Ian Schembri-Sant, company president, was on hand to announce the start of the program Fundacion Ecologica for the conservation of corals. Ian Schembri-Sant: “We have to have our windows open to the sea, but our doors open to the community,” he said, endorsing the new philosophy adopted by several North Coast hoteliers.
Xiomara Desimone of Starz highlighted work carried out by the hotel chain to back the kiteboard, cabarete windsurf, jazz festival events in Puerto Plata. And the programs with PUCMM tourism school in Puerto Plata to offer internships that can latter turn into permanent jobs with the hotels. Sosua Bay aspires to host DATE in 2006 at the new convention cednter with capacity for 1,000 square meters and 1,000 persons theater-style that is going up in Sosua and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Starz Resorts operates the Sosua Bay and Victoria House in Sosua, and Azzurro Club in Cabarete for the young set.
Coral by Hilton backs environment
Coral by Hilton’s Simon Suarez, who is also president of the Caribbean Hotel Association, confirmed the company’s commitment to integration with the community. He mentioned that from the decoration of Coral by Hilton hotels that highlight the cultural identity of the region to major initiatives to provide a better living for those who live in the vicinity of the hotels are priority on the company’s agenda. He said that Coral by Hilton as a corporation with its hotel in Bayahibe has supported initiatives for the improvement of the area, stressing that all hotels in the area will be Green Globe by the end of the year, and expects also this year to announce the beach as the first Blue Flag beach in the DR and one of the first to achieve the privileged environmental category in the Caribbean. As part of the company philosophy, Suarez mentioned the chain’s participation in the relocating of 179 families living in slum conditions in the Padre Nuestro town near Bayahibe beach to a new neighborhood where they will have all basic infrastructure that they did enjoy before. This is not for philanthropic reasons. The Padre Nuestro community located in the National Park of the East land had been built on top of the important subterranean waterways that the town was polluting. Suarez said that Coral by Hilton strongly rejects the present initiative in Congress to remove from National Park of the East protection hundreds of thousands of square meters of the coastal areas for hotel development. “We are more than committed to the community, we have put our heart and soul to it and do so with much enthusiasm,” he said.
Reyson Pimentel, marketing director, also highlighted that the company strongly endorses the international programs of ECPAT to end child prostitution at company hotels.
DATE 2005 set for Santo Domingo
Roberto Grissi, general manager of the Hotel Jaragua Renaissance announced DATE 2005 will be held in Santo Domingo. Grissi called the celebration of DATE 2005 “a challenge” after the success of the Puerto Plata DATE. He said that Santo Domingo will be highlighting the 500-year old attractions of the largest city in the Caribbean that make it much more than a business destination.
Viva Wyndham’s new darling in Cabarete
Viva Wyndham Resorts is now riding the wave of Cabarete’s popularity as one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. Viva Wyndham on Saturday, 1 May officially opened its Tangerine Resort right on the beach. Featuring the food and entertainment strengths of Viva’s other Dominican properties in the La Romana area, the Tangerine Resort adds Cabarete’s strengths in kiteboarding and windsurfing to the Viva experience. The Cabarete all-inclusive seeks to make guests feel at home with their Viva Italian gastronomy high standards, but encourages guests to walk down the beach or road and enjoy the Cabarete town experience, including night time dining on the beach. The 222-room resort has been open since November 2003. The hotel welcomes family travelers and has a Kid’s Club with programs for children ages 4 to 12, and features an Internet Cafe with highspeed access, and full service Kelive Spa, with services such as fitness center, steam room and Jacuzzi part of all guests package. The Viva Wyndham also is a first to install environmental friendly water-saving bathroom fixtures.
Speaking at the inauguration, Ettore Colussi, Viva Wyndham president, who opened the first company hotel in Dominicus Beach in 1986 later branded as Viva in 1997, explained that for the Cabarete hotel, the company brought in new Italian investors. Colussi explained that this new modality of being the operator of the hotel and not the owner would enable the company to continue to grow. Viva Wyndham now has six properties, three in the Dominican Republic and three in Mexico.

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