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November 20, 2007
  • Travel up worldwide, Caribbean lags behind
  • Contradictions re Caribbean travel
  • Punta Cana Foundation wins Brugal award
  • Barcelo adds Flamenco Puerto Plata
Travel up worldwide, Caribbean lags behind
Travel worldwide is up by 5.6%, according to the October 2007 issue of UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. From January to August, destinations worldwide received an estimated 610 million international tourist arrivals, compared with 578 million during the same period in 2006. Year-end growth is estimated at 5.7%, maintaining an above-average growth rate. Growth has been very much driven by emerging destinations in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, while the more mature regions of Europe and the Americas are growing at a more moderate pace. Asia and the Pacific are the current star performers with a 10% increase. The UNWTO Barometer shows that Germany, the USA and the UK recorded reasonable rises in travel spending abroad for the first eight months of 2007, while France and Japan showed stagnation in spending. Double-digit growth in spending is also reported for Brazil (+33%), Argentina (+24%), South Korea (+18%) and Russia (+16%).
Germany is set to reinforce its number one world ranking in 2007, in terms of international tourism expenditure, thanks to a rise of over 6% from January through August this year.
The USA recorded a 4% rise in outbound travel spending for the period, with only a 1% rise in outbound air trip volume. Furthermore, the report indicates that US consumer confidence as measured by the WTO Conference Board panel has been on the decline for three consecutive months since August and this is likely to dampen demand for outbound travel sooner or later.
Contradictions re Caribbean travel
The UNWTO Barometer reports that the Caribbean is the only one of the world's sub-regions to have recorded a decline in arrivals in the first eight months of 2007. The Caribbean experienced a drop of 3%, through August, when compared to 2006.
The principal factors seem to have been the US economy and the effects of the WHTI. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico, a destination where the WHTI passport requirement does not apply, has reported a 7% decline up to May. Cuba and St. Lucia report 8% drops, and tourist arrivals are down 7% in the Bahamas. Travel from the US to the DR was down from 841,404 travelers in August 2006 to 824,860 travelers registered through August 2007, an decline of almost 2%.
The shift in travel to Asia and the Pacific seems to be one explanation. Otherwise, UNWTO is having a hard time explaining the decline. "Since most Caribbean products are priced in US dollars, the decline in the value of the US dollar should not have had a serious effect," reports WTO. "Quite the reverse in fact, since other destinations would have become more expensive for US travelers and Caribbean destinations cheaper, not only for US travelers, but also, for instance, for Canadians and Europeans," states the report. It points out that a large increase in arrivals from Canada and a smaller increase from Europe were insufficient to make up for the decline from the USA. However, cruise passenger arrivals (mainly from the USA) are reported to be up about 4%.
The UNWTO prognosis is for continuing stagnation or decline during the rest of the year for the Caribbean.
Punta Cana Foundation wins Brugal award
The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation has won one of the prestigious "Brugal Cree en su Gente" (Brugal Believes in Its People) awards this year. This year's winners were Patronato Benefico Oriental, in the category of social assistance; Instituto Politecnico Industrial de Santiago (IPISA) in Education; Instituto de Accion Comunitaria (IDAC) in community development, Sociedad Cultural Alianza Cibaena in art and culture, and Fundacion Ecologica Puntacana in defense and protection of the environment. The Foundation, which is directed by Jake Kheel, runs programs aimed at protecting and preserving the region's natural resources, while contributing to sustainable tourism at all levels local, regional and national.
Barcelo adds Flamenco Puerto Plata
Barcelo has announced the acquisition of the former Occidental Gran Flamenco hotel in Playa Dorada. The sprawling 582-room resort has eight restaurants and two bars. It is being renamed the Barcelo Puerto Plata Hotel and has been re-branded as a Barcelo Premium level hotel. This is one of two hotels recently purchased by Playa Hotels & Resorts, a division of Barcelo hotels from Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The other was the Occidental Allegro Punta Cana that has also been re-branded. Barcelo is now the largest hotel chain in the Dominican Republic, operating properties in Punta Cana, Juan Dolio, Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata.

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