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April 28, 2009
  • Coming of age of Punta Cana
  • Javier Garcia on Punta Cana
  • DR + Cuba + Puerto Plata
  • Pushing for Brazil
Coming of age of Punta Cana
The east coast of the DR continues to be the fastest growing area in the Caribbean, currently with 62 hotels and 31,500 rooms for 48% of the total lodging inventory in the DR, said Ernesto Veloz, president of the Punta Cana and Bavaro Tourism Cluster in his overview address to the Dominican Annual Travel Exchange (DATE) meeting held at the Barcelo Bavaro Convention Center in Punta Cana last week. Veloz spoke of several large hotel and residential complexes that are under construction, including the expansion of the Royal Catalonia, Westin Roco Ki, Bahia Principe Esmeralda, Punta Cana Village, Hacienda Punta Cana, expansion at the Palladium, and works at Iguana in Cap Cana. He predicted that the eastern coastline would have 51,000 hotel rooms by the end of this decade. Veloz said that this year they are seeing a 1% decline in travel compared to 2008, minimal at times when many destinations are seeing double-digitted declines.
New hotels for the 2008-2009 tourist season include the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro, Moon Palace and The Reserve at Palma Real.
Veloz highlighted the way in which the east coast continues to strengthen its positioning as the leading golf destination in the DR, with nine courses in operation, three under construction and eight others approved by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Environment. These include courses under construction at Iberostar, Hacienda, Iguana, Palladium, Cana Bay, and approvals for courses at Cap Cana, Capo Bella, Vista Cana, Punta Perla, Elliot Miches and Tropicalia Miches.
He also mentioned important developments like the private sector and the government working towards an agreement that will enable the completion of the Tourist Boulevard, which expedites ground transport in the region, with the adoption of a toll business model to finance the completion of the highway.
Veloz announced that the Ministry of Tourism had approved the land use plan for the area that will serve to improve the organization of development, as communities are integrated with tourism developments. "We will put the long pants on Punta Cana," said Veloz referring to the coming of age of Punta Cana. He said the ground use plan would be instrumental in promoting urban renewal in the area where thousands of construction workers have spontaneously created slums, lacking basic services.
This land use plan involves setting up a private corporation, with state participation, to oversee the development of the Punta Cana aqueduct and sewage and waste management in the area. Veloz said that this is planned for the central reservation of the Tourist Boulevard where the piping for these services will be installed. He announced that the plans also involved the use of gray waters for irrigating the golf courses in the area.
Finally, he announced that lighting was a priority for the Cluster, along with signage, so that visitors can be encouraged to visit all the parts of the east coast.
Javier Garcia on Punta Cana
Speaking at the Dominican Annual Travel Exchange (DATE) meeting in Punta Cana last week, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia stressed the new public-private alliance in the tourism sector. He predicted that the implementation of the recently approved land use plan for the Punta Cana-Bavaro region would mean that visitors to the area this December "will think they have arrived somewhere else." He said the objectives were to create conditions for tourists to have a community-included experience that will turn them into repeat tourists. He announced that along with plans for lighting and signage, a plan for enhanced security with the installation of cameras on tourist roads and highways is under way.
He said that within three months, by the start of the summer season, a blitz to patch up holes in highways using one million gallons of asphalt leading to and within the Punta Cana zone would be completed.
Javier Garcia spoke of efforts under way to work closely with tour operators, but also to attract new markets, especially at a time when US travelers are showing a downward trend. But at the same time, he said that they expected US travel to continue strong, as many who would have chosen a long-haul destination would now look to the Caribbean for their vacations. "It is an opportunity for close destinations," said Javier Garcia. He said the DR would be increasing its presence in US market with the opening of nine new tourist offices.
"In times of crisis, you have two options," he said. "You sit down and cry, or you take firm steps forward," he stated, indicating that the DR would be stepping forward.
He forecast that tourism developments would continue in the DR. "The beaches, the climate and nature are not going anywhere," he said.
He said that during his term as minister of tourism he would be strengthening relations with the private sector - with the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, and all associations with ties to the tourism industry. He said the Ministry was working closely with the tourism clusters throughout the country. "In tourism neither the private sector nor government can be ahead or behind, they have to work side by side," he said.
DR + Cuba + Puerto Plata
The Dominican Republic stands to be one of the winners if progress is made towards opening Cuba as a cruise ship destination. Michael Ronan, spokesman for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association said that cruise companies are monitoring the situation and would be ready to take part in cruises that could be launched from Florida to Cuba. He said that Cuba still does not have the infrastructure in place for cruise ship arrivals, but this could be ready in two years time. He spoke of five-day circuits including Puerto Plata and Puerto Rico.
During the Dominican Annual Travel Exchange meeting, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia announced that the Port of Puerto Plata could be happening, too. He said that Center for Export & Investments (CEI-RD) director Eddy Martinez was the coordinator of the project and was expected to come up with options. "Several cruise ship companies have expressed their interest in developing this project," he said. He expected a definition to come about no later than in May. He said that too many opportunities had been lost in Puerto Plata and that, "we don't have time to lose."
Javier Garcia said the Ministry is working closely with the Tourism Cluster of Puerto Plata to set out the clear rules of the game and land use guidelines so that maritime traffic is adequately handled in Puerto Plata this time around.
Pushing for Brazil
Speaking during DATE, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said that the Ministry was working closely with Aerodom, operators of the Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata airports, on a plan to stay ahead in keeping and securing new airlift to the DR.
He announced efforts to attract more Brazilian travelers who currently visit on charters or making a stop in Miami. He said that a recent photo of President Leonel Fernandez in a paternal embrace with President Lula da Silva of Brazil was just perfect for promoting a new awareness of the Dominican Republic in Brazil. "If those close feelings exist, it is logical that we should increase our efforts in Brazil," he said. He said a promotional campaign has been designed for penetrating the Brazilian market.
Statistics indicate that 100 million Brazilians have reached the purchasing power status to take a Caribbean vacation.
Ken Hassard of Aerodom has announced an initiative aimed at convincing Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol to travel to the DR. Brazilians are regarded as free-spending tourists.

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