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July 8, 2008
  • Brazilian tourists
  • Open skies with Panama
  • DR ranks 47th in tourist arrivals
  • The resilience of travel
Brazilian tourists
There will be a considerable increase in the number of Brazilian tourists in 2008 to the Dominican Republic now that the Brazilian tour operator CVC has commenced charter flights from Sao Paulo to Punta Cana as of this 7 July. The direct flight shortens the travel time by at least four hours. The tour operator has arranged for five TAM flights. The Brazilian airline will be using a Boeing 767-300 with capacity for 234 seats, for transporting 1,170 tourists to Punta Cana. The flights will depart the International Airport of Guarulhos in Sao Paulo on 6, 13, 20, and 25 July and on 3 August with a 5:55am scheduled arrival. Regularly scheduled flights could happen in the future, if the flight is successful.
The improving economic situation in Brazil makes Brazil a good potential source market for tourists to the DR. The United Nations World Travel Organization Barometer June report indicates: "The numbers for South America (+7%) show how the subregion has been prospering on the basis of stronger commodity export prices and continued financial and economic stability. Outbound and intraregional tourism (both leisure and business) has been growing strongly." It says that Brazil has a very strong exchange rate and an economy that is prospering enough to allow larger numbers of people to travel on holiday, leading to the present boom in domestic and outbound travel.
Open skies with Panama
The governments of the Dominican Republic and Panama signed an Open Skies agreement on 1 July that should strengthen linkages between the DR, Central and South America. Flights through Panama are already an alternative for those seeking to avoid the congestioned Miami International Airport, the traditional transfer point for Latin America. Making matters better, Copa Airlines is posting high on-time records, compared to unusually low on-time records for American Airlines, and the Miami connection.
The agreement is expected to stimulate more flights from South America to the DR. Civil Aviation Authority director of Panama, Eustacia Fabrega and Dominican Civil Aviation Board director Jose Luis Rodriguez Ariza signed for their respective countries. The agreement allows for unlimited exploitation of routes between Panama and the DR, both for non- stop flights and flights stopping at intermediate points.
DR ranks 47th in tourist arrivals
The Dominican Republic is 47th among the top 50 leaders in numbers of international tourist arrivals, as reported in the recently released June World Tourism Organization Barometer. In Latin America and Caribbean region, Mexico is 10th, Brazil is 41st, Argentina 44th. The DR received 4 million arrivals in 2007. Travel for the first quarter to the country is up 6.8%. The DR was 48th among the 50 world leaders in the international tourism receipts ranking. Mexico was 17th, Brazil 40th and Argentina 47th on the list.
The resilience of travel
The United Nations World Tourism Organization Barometer forecasts that so far this year there has been healthy performance of the tourism sector around the world. "Even though the overall economic climate has deteriorated, prospects are still fairly positive. For 2008 as a whole, UNWTO maintains its forecast that the growth of international tourist arrivals will be positive overall within the range of 3.4%.
The Barometer points out that the performance of the Americas (+8%) during the first four months of the year, compared to 5% reported for last year as a whole, has surprised many skeptics who were not confident of prospects for continued growth of US tourism. The Barometer explains that the principal factor behind the growth is the surge in arrivals in the US, which registered nearly two fifths of the total arrivals count in the Americas. Arrivals were up 15% for the first three months, compared to 10% for all of 2007.
Arrivals to Mexico were up 3% in the first four months, reflecting the "extremely competitive prices" the Cancun/Riviera Maya hotels are offering.
Regarding the Caribbean, the Barometer reports that after a flat 2007, the Caribbean as a region is doing much better. It reasons that most Caribbean currencies are pegged to the US, and the exchange advantage is pulling in travelers from Europe and South America. At the same time, it is close enough to the USA to be attracting US holidaymakers deterred by economic uncertainty, exchange rates or other concerns from long haul travel. The point is made that the Caribbean derives some comfort from the idea that US citizens, determined not to sacrifice their vacations, may be diverted to destinations closer to home.
On the DR, the Barometer reports that travel to the country is up 6% through May and comments on the interest of big players in investing in the country, which is extending the range of markets on which it can draw.
UNWTO states that the development causing the most concern at present is the continued rise in energy prices, and its effect on air transport. According to the Barometer, airline fuel costs have escalated to such a point that the industry is almost in panic mode, closing routes, cutting capacity, mothballing aircraft, suspending or postponing orders, looking for mergers, raising fuel surcharges and introducing new charges for things like checked and/or hand baggage, inflight meals and drinks - services taken for granted until now on legacy airlines. These different factors are bound to influence demand, with the greatest impact expected to be from late 2008. Other uncertainties are inflation, the weak US dollar, the depreciation of the Pound sterling against all key currencies except the US dollar and erratic weather patterns all over the world.

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