PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- The Dominican Republic continues to capitalize on its already impressive tourism developments as it received a record 4.7 million visitors in 2013, a growth of 3.6 percent. The 2014 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) in Punta Cana recognized these efforts in front of the country's tourism sector and more than 100 international buyers and suppliers.
The ministry of tourism highlighted the Dominican Republic's successful tourism year and confirmed that the United States was the largest source of visitor growth. The USs accounted for 1.6 million travelers in 2013, 40 percent of the country's visitor contingent, followed by Canada, France, Russia and Germany, which also proved to be strong markets.
"Our strategic investment in new tourism products and infrastructure throughout the country has created more efficient ways of traveling within the country, allowing easy access to the many diverse regions of the country," said Magaly Toribio, marketing advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. "We continue to monitor tourism trends and develop tourism assets that appeal to our visitors so we can maintain the growth rate and surpass these numbers in 2014."
Highlighted tourism developments announced included:
• 2014 Meetings and Incentives Strategy – The meetings and incentives division of the ministry of tourism is committed to furthering the development of the country's meetings and incentives offerings, including a new convention center in Santo Domingo. The ministry of tourism will create an incentive program to attract more events that target convention and conference organizers. The program will be based on the number of attendees (300 to 600 people and 600 to 1,000 people) and will include benefits such as airfare, accommodations, sponsorship of opening and closing ceremonies, and more.
• Delta Vacations' Destination Growth – Delta Vacations announced significant growth in Punta Cana, noting a substantial increase in specialty vacations like weddings and honeymoons. As a result, Delta Air Lines added flights from popular cities including New York and Atlanta to Punta Cana due to the increase in demand.
• 2015 Carnival Cruise Port Opening – The highly anticipated Carnival Cruise Port is on track for its 2015 unveiling. Known as the Amber Cove Cruise Port, the $65 million port will accommodate two 4,000-passenger vessels and will be open to all cruise ships, with Carnival's ships having priority. The resorts and tourism vendors in Puerto Plata are preparing to cater to the influx of visitors to the area and the ministry of tourism has highly promoted the destination in recent years in anticipation.
• Expedia.com's Travel Demand – The world's largest travel company, Expedia.com, applauded the Dominican Republic for its increase in travel demand. The company's platforms confirmed a growth rate of 33 percent in 2013. Dominican Republic was the top market in the Caribbean with package bookings for flights and hotels, while Punta Cana was one of the top package destinations.
• Refurbishment of Santo Domingo's El Embajador – The historic 278-room Hotel Occidental El Embajador just completed a five million dollar renovation to modernize its facilities. The renovation kept the classic design and rich history, but added modern colors to the decor in the rooms, bar, restaurant, meeting venues, lobby and outdoor terrace. Among the additions are the Gastro and Wine Bar in the lobby with a wine and champagne cellar and a menu of traditional Spanish tapas and Caribbean fusion cuisine.
• Sheraton Santo Domingo Hotel – The 225-room Sheraton Santo Domingo Hotel will undergo a $20 million renovation. The renovation will include a refurbished Sheraton Club Lounge, 13 conference rooms, wedding and events areas, outdoor swimming pool, bars, restaurants and a fitness center.