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October 25, 2005
  • DR International Film Festival
  • Pedro Martinez to play local ball
  • Taking the Caribbean to the next level
  • CHA & CTO join forces
DR International Film Festival
With barely two weeks to go, tickets are selling fast for the inaugural Dominican Republic International Film Festival is less than one month away. The first annual Dominican Republic International Film Festival to take place at the Sun Village Resort & Spa, Cofresi Beach, Puerto Plata will kick off six days of sun, screenings and so much more starting on Sunday evening, 13 November 2005. The festival promises a full week of film, sun and fun.
New films have been added and celebrity attendance is increasing almost daily. These include Dan Klores' "Viva Baseball," a documentary about Latin influence on Major League Baseball. The screening will be attended by high profile Dominican-born professional baseball players that will be home after fulfilling this year's commitments with MLB. Another new film will be "The Kid & I, Penelope Spheeris' new comedy starring Tom Arnold, Joe Mantegna and Shannon Elizabeth. Some of the film's stars will be in Puerto Plata for the event.
Other participating films are:
-- "All In," the new movie from director Nick Vallelonga starring Academy Award winner Lou Gossett Jr. (An Officer & A Gentleman), who has confirmed he will be in Puerto Plata for the event.
-- "Havoc," directed by Barbara Kopple, with a screenplay by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic).
-- "Lovewrecked," directed by Randal Kleiser (Grease, Blue Lagoon) and with scenes filmed at the Cofresi hotel.
-- "Water", directed by Deepa Mehta (this film opened the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival).
-- "The Last Mogul", the controversial documentary film by Barry Avrich about Lew Wasserman.
For the most up to date information regarding screenings, celebrities, events and festival packages (5-7 day packages ranging from US$1,000-US$1,500), see http://www.driff.org
Pedro Martinez to play local ball
New York Mets' Pedro Martinez has announced he will be wearing the Licey Tigers uniform in Dominican Professional Winter Ball this year. Martinez traveled recently to the DR at the end of his commitments with the present MLB season. He said he has plans to pitch more than a game for the local fans. "I would like to be able to pitch in each of the Dominican stadiums, and that a special afternoon for children can be planned, and he would pitch for free. For this year's regular season schedule, see http://www.lidom.com/calendario.htm
Taking the Caribbean to the next level
Ministries of tourism of the Caribbean speaking to the press at the 28th Caribbean Tourism Organization Conference taking place in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands evidenced a new direction in the Caribbean quest for visitors. The emphasis seemed predominantly on enticing visitors to get to know the culture and natural diversity in the region, in a push for a higher end of the tourist market. Following is a brief breakdown of highlights of each country's presentation:
* Puerto Rico has done an about face. They announced they want to offer more sophisticated property in regions beyond San Juan, and are inviting travelers to explore beyond the shore. During the presentation, beaches were mentioned only to highlight that they had four Blue Flag beaches and were working to certify seven more. In her 20-minute talk, Terestella Gonzalez, the director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, focused on their new convention center, promotions for tourism in mountain areas, outside San Juan culinary programs, the benefits derived from getting the municipalities and their mayors involved in tourism, instead of the previous concentration of central government doing it all. "We will be focusing on culture and nature. We are going after the geo-savy tourist, who wants to be an explorer, rather than the tourist who wants to stay in a resort and relax. This is the tourist with more money and time to spend," she said.
* Turks & Caicos announced its Ritz Carlton for 2007, after the successful operation of other five star hotels. "Our vision is that we continue doing our best to keep Turks & Caicos small and quaint and not crowded. We are not a mass market destination, not one that appeals to the mass market. We want to go after the high end, we are not catering to crowds, even if we are growing double digit," he said. He explained that at present they have around 2,400 rooms and another same quantity in private villas, with major growth expected for future years in more high-end property.
Dominica's new minister of tourism, Ivor Nassief, said: "The good news is we are still untouched." He announced plans to bring in new business but remain untouched by mass tourism. He proudly announced that the island is proud of being the first green globe island destination, and plans are to maintain its small boutique hotels and upgrade them. Investment in exploiting touristically their Carib Indian heritage, improving the original 180 miles of inner island trails built by the Carib Indians as they crisscrossed the island to escape slavery. "Our vision for Dominica is to evolve over the years as a sustainable tourism destination," he said.
St. Kitts' Richard Skerritt, minister of state for tourism, spoke along the same lines. "We do not want to become a hamburger destination." We are saying no to expansion of tourism in order to balance short-term needs and sustainable requirements. For them the issues of what can environment take and maintain integrity. "Island integrity cannot be affected. We want our visitors to have a Caribbean experience but with a marriage between environment and activity. We want to provide a quality experience, which means our people have to be on board, and environment cannot be under stress. If too much were happening too quickly, we could run into trouble, and we want to avoid this," he explained. St. Kitts has just switched from basing its economy from sugar cane economy to tourism. He mentioned that the situation is different in Nevis, where the upscale small Four Seasons set the benchmark to be followed by small boutique hotels.
Brenda Hood, minister of tourism for Grenada highlighted in her presentation that they are selling excursions through its open waters to observe dolphins frolicking naturally. They are encouraging their people to open bedrooms in their homes, while hotel renovations continue to return rooms to operation after damages suffered due to Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They also hope that these home rooms, that need to meet minimum standards, will continue to be available even when the hotels are back in operation, as they are revenue-producing streams for the people. The government is giving incentives so that people can renovate rooms in their homes to meet minimum standards. Severely affected in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, the island has made a comeback with major renovations of hotels and facilities open to tourists. They are working closely with the diaspora, turning them into tourism promoters.
Minister Noel Lynch for Barbados announced the opening of a 135 room Four Season hotel in 2008, focus on Golf with a bid for the World Golf Championship 2006, seeking global exposure among golfers. They are proud that Tiger Woods chose to get married in Barbados. Emphasized that they want to grow with better quality hotel chains and improving their complementary market.
Jamaica Minister of Tourism Aloun Assamba proudly announced the advent of the age of the Spanish mega all-inclusive resort operators, with Riu, Iberostar and Fiesta hotel chains moving into that island.
Luis Simo, deputy minister of tourism, spoke for the Dominican Republic presenting that the DR has something to offer all markets. He spoke of Van Diesel's announced future investments in the Miches and El Seibo area, mentioned Melia new upscale units in the Punta Cana area, the new Majestic Spanish investment in Punta Cana area, Deep Down Discovery marina in Puerto Plata, plus upscale investments in Westin Roco Ki and Cap Cana and Los Corales in the Punta Cana area. He also mentioned the successful quest for new markets in Russia, Poland, Chech Republic, and Brazil. At the same time, he proudly touted the 15% increase in Apple Vacations, one of the leading sellers of all-inclusive vacations for the United States and a strong player in the mass market package tour segment of the market.
CHA & CTO join forces
Under the new leadership of Caribbean Tourism Organization Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the two leading speakers for tourism in the Caribbean, CTO and sister organization, Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA), announced plans to join into one organization. The historic agreement was signed at Government's House in St. Thomas, during events part of the 28th Caribbean Tourism Conference.
The two organizations pledged "full cooperation and collaboration between the public and private sectors of the Caribbean tourism industry in order for tourism development to proceed in a coherent, effective and efficient manner."

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