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March 17, 2009
  • AILA: de-facto airline hub for the Americas
  • Metro museum and art
  • Dominican carnival to Hollywood
  • Santo Domingo chosen CAC 2010
AILA: de-facto airline hub for the Americas
Where tourists are coming from is changing as far as Santo Domingo and much of the rest of the Dominican Republic is concerned, according to Las Americas International Airport commercial director Ken Hassard. He says that current stats show that traffic from the Americas is filling in for slowdowns in flows from Europe, and low-cost carriers and the Internet are picking up the slack in tour operator bookings.
There is a gradual shifting of the travel model from one that is tour-operator based and away from the hub-and-spokes model to one where low-cost carriers and their point-to-point flights and the Internet are growing in importance, he says. Las Americas is positioning itself to gain from the new situation where the low-cost carriers offer much lower rates than the legacy carriers and stimulate new markets.
There is logic to the growth in traffic for Santo Domingo. Hassard stresses that population-wise Santo Domingo is the seventh largest city if it were in North America, and the 4th largest if it were in continental US. "Airlines cannot not consider Santo Domingo," he makes the point.
Southwest is expected to begin flights in time for the next winter season, WestJet from Canada will be providing a regular service, Interjet from Mexico and Gol and Azul from Brazil could soon become options for travelers to and from Santo Domingo.
Hassard says that what is happening is that through their efforts to restructure air service to reduce dependence on the legacy carriers, "a de-facto hub has been created at Las Americas."
Over the years, direct linkages have been created to new points including Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Atlanta and Boston. Coming up are scheduled linkages with Providence, Rhode Island (Southwest) and the Washington/Baltimore (JetBlue) in addition to direct linkages with Toronto and Montreal. Likewise, talks are advanced for improving direct services to South America.
Hassard stresses that the growth in traffic is not coming from Europe," it is coming from South America".
Air Transportation of America Association stats show that in 2008 international traffic grew by more than 4%. Latin American routes showed a growth rate of 4.5%. Compared to a 3.5% drop for the Pacific and a 5% drop for domestic routes, UNWTO Barometer confirms that Latin America was one of the bright spots of air transport in 2008. 106 million passengers were carried by members of the Latin American Air Transport Association - ALTA, from Jan to Nov 2008, up 6% over the 2007 level.
Passenger traffic rose by 9.9%, as against a 7.8% rise in 2007 - thereby bucking the worldwide trend of a slowdown, while seat load factor increased by half a percentage point to 71.3%. International traffic overall for ALTA airlines in the first 11 months of 2008 increased by 12.6% while domestic traffic grew 6%.
Las Americas International Airport has been attracting these flights. Hassard highlights the fact that Santo Domingo is the number 2 city for Copa connections out of Panama, and Taca and Lacsa also offer connections to Central America.
The advent of Avianca provides linkages to Colombia. Lan is coming about to offer direct service to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile. Talks are under way for Brazilian low-cost carriers Gol and Azul to fly to Santo Domingo, connecting on to North America. Talks aimed at an improved service from Mexico are also at an advanced stage, with Interjet expected to fly to Santo Domingo this year.
From Santo Domingo, travelers will be able to continue on to North America through low-cost carrier services as provided by JetBlue, Spirit and WestJet (Canada).
Last month, Las Americas International Airport was awarded the acclaimed Routes-OAG Airport Marketing Award for best airport in the Caribbean.
Metro museum and art
Santo Domingo residents and visitors from other parts of the country have been taking the metro tour. Yes, a ride on the first 14.5km line of the Santo Domingo Metro. In addition to offering the sight of the capital city from up high and the tunnel rides, the metro tour is a cultural experience, featuring valuable works of art and even a visit to a small museum that touches everyone's conscience. Note that the large sculptures at several of the stations make for great photo opportunities. Parking at the main stations makes it easy for vehicle owners.
Factor in two to three hours to give yourself time to admire the works of art on the way. They are primarily located at five of the 16 stations. The collection was coordinated by artist Fernando Varela, but the metro management later added other works of art.
The largest amount of time will be spent at the southernmost station, Centro de los Heroes. A small museum dedicated to the heroes of the Constanza, Maimon and Estero Hondo resistance group that opposed dictator Truijillo is on display. This museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 to 6pm and is an introduction to what will be the Memorial Museum of the Resistance, due to open in the Colonial Zone later this year. At the Centro de los Heroes station, there are also works inspired by the 14 June resistance movement by painter Amable Sterling and sculptures by Ciprian Mordan that criticize war and violence.
At the National Theater Casandra Damiron station, Fernando Varela has his own works on display, as well as a steel sculpture by Jorge Pineda. The idea behind the sculpture was to create something entertaining for all, with movement, and with the woman's touch in the flowers as the station carried the name of famous folklorist Casandra Damiron.
At the John F Kennedy or the station that passes under the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center there are works by Bismarck Victoria with a painting with three large black baseball bats and the Olympic rings. There is an abstract ceramics mural by Said Musa, also on the theme of sports.
Cristian Martinez contributed murals at the Hermanas Mirabal station, the most northernmost.
Dominican carnival to Hollywood
The colorful Dominican carnival is coming to Hollywood district in Los Angeles, California. The event is organized by the Dominican Consul for California and the US West Coast, Celeste Jimenez Pena. Some 200 devilish characters from the famous La Vega carnival will travel to California for the event.
The First Dominican Carnival will parade along El Centro Avenue between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard on Sunday, 7 June.
The consul signed an agreement in La Vega last week to bring the La Vega carnival to California with Senator Euclides Sanchez, La Vega Mayor Fausto Ruiz and Orlando Lora, president of the Union Carnavalesca Vegana (UCAVE) that organizes the event every year.
Jimenez said that this is a first for Hollywood, as no other country has brought its carnival there.
Jimenez says the idea is to promote Dominican cultural values and the DR as a tourism and investment destination.
Santo Domingo chosen CAC 2010
It's official. Santo Domingo has been named the Cultural Capital of the Americas 2010. Xavier Tudela, president of the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals made the announcement from the organization's headquarters in Barcelona on 11 March 2009. This appointment is comparable with being selected to host the world expo or the Olympic games, but in this case the country does not have to make major investments in infrastructure. It is nevertheless a priceless opportunity for promotion and self-discovery.
The initiative began with the Center of European Studies at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra but has received the support of the Presidency, the ministries of Culture and Tourism, the City of Santo Domingo and the private sector, represented by the Tourism Cluster of Santo Domingo.

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