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February 5, 2008
  • DATE set for 1-3 April
  • Blue Flag beaches
  • New eco-routes in Bayahibe
  • Regata Presidente 2008
  • Challenges for the Caribbean
DATE set for 1-3 April
The National Hotel & Restaurant Association (Asonahores) has announced that the 9th Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) will be held from 1-3 April this year at the Barcelo Bavaro Convention Center in Punta Cana. The event is the most important local tourism marketing opportunity. In 2007, 150 tour operators and 283 hotel representatives took part. The event is also a major platform for making press announcements.
Blue Flag beaches
Coordinated work between the National Competitiveness Council (CNC), the Puerto Plata and Samana Tourism Clusters and the environmental law institute, Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de la Republica Dominicana (IDARD), has resulted in three new beaches being awarded Blue Flag certifications. This brings to four the number of Dominican beaches that can boast the prestigious beach quality award. Two stretches of beach along the north coast in Costa Dorada and Puerto Plata, Coson beach on the northern side of Samana and the confirmation of Bayahibe on the east coast were accredited for 2007. Jaime Moreno, senior advisor to the National Competitiveness Council highlighted the fact that Blue Flag is the only beach and coastal zone management program in operation in the country that ensures adequate and sustainable use of Dominican beaches, which are important assets for the competitiveness of sun and beach tourism. Cesar Vargas of IDARD, which manages the Blue Flag program in the country, explained the difficulties in the maintenance of the strict quality controls. During the announcement of the certification awards, he stressed that it is a challenge for protecting coastal areas and sustainable tourism that hoteliers are helping make happen.
Blue Flag, a European program, has certified more than 3,300 beaches and ports in 36 countries around the world. Bayahibe was the first Blue Flag beach in the Caribbean.
New eco-routes in Bayahibe
The Romana-Bayahibe Hotel Association and the Ministry of Environment have formally opened their new Padre Nuestro Ecological and Archaeological Route that makes it easy for visitors to appreciate the tropical vegetation along trails into areas populated by the Taino Indians hundreds of years ago. In addition to learning about the flora of the area, tourists carrying out the 2km Padre Nuestro hike will also visit caves to observe pictographs and water sources of much of the National Park of the East. An additional shorter route takes tourists around the flora and cultural heritage of Bayahibe town. A visit to the early 20th century church, an Indian burial site, and the Flower of Bayahibe cactus forest are highlights of the 1km La Punta walk.
The project was funded by contributions from the Inter-American Development Bank and the United States Agency for International Development. It was implemented by the Dominican Integrated Development Institute (IDDI) in scientific partnership with the National Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Dominican Man, the Santo Domingo Zoo and Ecoparque.
Speaking at the launch event, Rafael Blanco Canto, president of the Romana-Bayahibe Association, highlighted the need to improve competitiveness through sustainable projects of this kind. He said this motivates interest in research, conservation and promotion of the cultural and natural heritage of Bayahibe. Kelly Robinson, the new executive director of the association, highlighted the fact that that the trails recreate the historic past while stimulating the imagination through the variety of landscape.
Regata Presidente 2008
Casa de Campo is hosting some 100 competitors for the Regata Presidente 2008, set for the Casa de Campo yacht Club and Marina from 13-17 February. The Dominican Sailing Federation is organizing the event, which features a variety of sailing categories. Event organizer Antonio Torres said that the five-day regatta includes a wide range of social activities, too. "Casa de Campo is one of the best sites for regattas in the Caribbean and the world," he said. He stressed that the marina is first-rate and offers all amenities for all sizes of boats, including super-yachts.
Challenges for the Caribbean
The Caribbean has reported a 1% decline in travel in 2007 compared to 2006, as the region loses market share to more exotic culture-based destinations in the Far East, Middle East, Africa, Central (especially Panama and Costa Rica) and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru). The United Nations World Tourism Organization Barometer bulletin for January 2008 shows that travel in the world continues strong, with an increase from 800 million to 900 million in two years, and a 6% growth rate. But the Caribbean is getting less of its share.
The UNTWTO also warns that growth is slowing to a lower pace, after four consecutive years of strong growth. Barometer explains that this is in line with the less favorable economic prospects that have started to emerge in major markets, primarily the United States.
UNWTO also reports that the Caribbean was the only sub-region in the world to record a decline (-1%) down from 3% the previous year. Canada, with its strengthening dollar, is seen as a market to watch and lure, because the Canadian dollar is now worth more than the US dollar.
Barometer says the DR received 3.98 million tourist arrivals in 2007, up from 3.96 in 2006, for a flat 0.4% increase, the lowest in years.
In the Caribbean, Jamaica hardly fared better with a 1% increase, and strong small island destinations such as St. Lucia saw a 5% decline. Barometer points out that destinations attracting travel from Canada and Europe, in addition to the US, have withstood the flux in travel better, but that the solid performance of traffic from Europe and Canada has not been enough to balance the marked declines in arrivals from the USA.

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