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March 18, 2008
  • Enhancing Saona Island
  • Merengue Festival in Santo Domingo and San Juan
  • Santo Domingo's convention center
  • Foreign air travel up Jan-Feb
Enhancing Saona Island
Italian ambassador Enrico Guicciardi has announced that the government of Italy is making a EUR3 million grant to the Dominican government to build infrastructure works on Saona Island. These include a shopping plaza, an archaeological museum, a park, a coliseum for cultural activities, a baseball playing field, a hurricane shelter, an amphitheater and a community center. The funds will also be used to remodel some of the homes on the island, build a food and arts and crafts plaza, and hold workshops to improve the inhabitants' skills.
Saona Island is 22 kilometers long from east to west, 5-6 kilometers wide from north to south and around 110 square kilometers in size. It is the largest of the Dominican Republic's offshore islands, almost the size of Aruba. It takes a speedboat about four hours to ride around the island. Saona is part of the National Park of the East and is the most visited of national park areas nationwide. Its 300 inhabitants live mainly in the towns of Catuano and Mano Juan. A 12km road links both towns.
Merengue Festival in Santo Domingo and San Juan
Brugal Rum announces that it will be sponsoring Brugal Merengue Festivals in Santo Domingo and San Juan this summer. The traditional hosting of street dancing and performances by top merengue bands at hotels and Santo Domingo's seafront boulevard the Malecon will take place on 24-27 July this year. On closing night, 27 July, the first ever Brugal Merengue Festival will be held simultaneously in Puerto Rico. The stage for the Puerto Rican extravaganza will be the 25,000-seater Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Angel Duverge, promotion director for Brugal, is in charge of coordinating both events.
The announcement comes on the heels of the new export push now that the company is under the reins of Scotland's Edrington Group (of Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Macallan's and Highland Park fame). In February 2008 Edrington announced that it was acquiring majority stock in Brugal, the oldest and leading rum brand in the DR where it has over 80% market share. Brugal is one of the largest international golden rum brands in the world and sells around five million cases a year. It is in the top 20 of Impact's Top 100 growth premium spirit brands worldwide.
Santo Domingo's convention center
The Ministry of Tourism has revealed more details about the signing of a feasibility study for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convention Center with Messe Berlin, the company that manages the Messe Berlin, the 160,000-square meter Berlin travel show grounds. The Ministry of Tourism is optimistic that if the convention center comes to fruition, the number of hotel rooms in Santo Domingo could double. Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez signed the agreement with Raimund Hosch, president of Messe Berlin at the Berlin travel fair this year when the DR was Official Partner Country. Also attending were Luis Lopez, president of the National Hotel & Restaurants Association (Asonahores), Manuel Alejandro Grullon, president of the Banco Popular Dominicano, and Ricardo Hazoury, president of Aerodom, the operator of the main Santo Domingo international airport. Jimenez stressed that the center is especially important because Santo Domingo is the country's leading business travel center. Members of the committee that will be assisting in the feasibility study are the City Government of Santo Domingo, the National Competitiveness Council, and the Ministry of Tourism. At the Ministry, Deputy Minister Magaly Toribio will be in charge. Others involved are Juan Bancalari, president of the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce, Lisandro Macarrulla, president of the National Business Council (Conep), the developers of the Sans Souci Port project and a selection of city hotels. The study, which will cost EUR119,000, will determine the best site for the convention center, its capacity, the type of businesses that should be incorporated in the final design, and other aspects. Jimenez believes the center would make it viable to construct three to four thousand new hotel rooms in Santo Domingo.
For starters, the promoters are looking at the construction of the center at the intersection of Independencia and Abraham Lincoln avenues, where the Hispaniola and Santo Domingo hotels are located, as well as the National Police's Campamento Duarte and the Robert Reid Cabral children's hospital. The promoters are looking at the possibility of building a new public hospital on the grounds of the Plaza de la Salud, where the children's hospital would be relocated. The Hispaniola and Santo Domingo property owners have expressed their interest in taking part in the project. The promoters have discarded, for the time being, the use of the Feria Ganadera grounds for the convention center.
The feasibility study could be ready by May 2008, and an international tender would be called for the development of the Santo Domingo convention center. The idea is that the center would be operational by 2011, reports the Ministry of Tourism.
Foreign air travel up Jan-Feb
International travel to the DR is up for the first two months of the year, according to Central Bank statistics. A total of 725,238 foreign travelers arrived during the first two months of the year, up 9% when compared to 664,523 for the same period in 2007. Canadian travelers have taken the lead in 2008, with 217,885 coming (108,128 in January and 109,757 in February). US travelers followed with 184,136 (83,523 in Jan and 100,613 in Feb). The next important source countries were France with 80,759 (40,049 in Jan and 40,710 in Feb), Germany with 38,614 (19,069 in Jan and 19,545 in Feb), Spain with 34,421 (14,595 in Jan and 19,826 in Feb), Italy with 33,416 (18,037 in Jan and 15,379 in Feb), Great Britain with 27,147 (13,416 in Jan and 13,731 in Feb) and Holland with 10,418 (5,482 in Jan and 4,936 in Feb). Others are Argentina with 9,283 travelers (5,109 in Jan and 4,174 in Feb), Russia with 8,625 (4,987 in Jan and 3,638 in Feb), Belgium 7,714 (4,054 in Jan and 3,660 in Feb), Chile with 7,643 travelers (3,123 in Jan and 4,520 in Feb), Venezuela with 7,180 travelers (4,173 in Jan and 3,007 in Feb), Switzerland with 6,479 (3,223 in Jan and 3,256 in Feb), and Colombia with 5,246 travelers (3,254 in Jan and 1,992 in Feb).

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