Dominican Republic expands travel marketing, bolsters U.S. presence

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*logoTourism officials in the Dominican Republic are not slacking off in their promotional efforts to attract new markets.

Visitor arrivals to the destination fell 4.4% in the first two months of 2009 over the same period a year ago, perhaps galvanizing officials to push even harder to open nontraditional niches to attract tourists and revenue.

The Dominican Republic has seen a "welcome growth" from the South American market and is "working closely with the Tourism Ministry to find other sources of visitors," according to Arturo Villanueva, vice president of the Hotels and Restaurants Association.

At the recent Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange in Puerto Plata, new tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia pledged that the Dominican Republic would accelerate its U.S. promotions by opening six more tourist offices around the country. Currently, the D.R. maintains offices in New York, Miami and Chicago. Three more offices will open in Europe.

The destination is involved in a number of initiatives geared to infrastructure improvements, the development of new attractions and the sustainability of natural resources.

Garcia pointed out the D.R.'s long-term commitment to developing well-lit urban spaces in tourist centers such as Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo and Samana, so that "visitors can walk among shops and restaurants while experiencing the culture and lifestyle of Dominicans."

The government continues to invest in the repair and development of roads and highways, including a new highway from Santo Domingo to Samana in the north-central region that will shorten the drive time from five-plus hours to two hours. Another planned highway will link Santo Domingo with Punta Cana in two hours, instead of the current three-and-a-half.

The tourism minister pointed to the growth of cruise tourism, spurred on by the new Sans Souci terminal in the port of Santo Domingo. The ports of Samana and La Romana also are seeing regular cruise calls, according to Garcia.

A study is underway to develop the port in Puerto Plata on the north coast, which also will benefit from a new open-air theater, the repair of its Atlantic Boulevard and the renovation of a water park.

Officials also plan to clean up the beach vendor situation in nearby Sosua, often called Puerto Plata's little sister.

Referring to the economic crisis, Garcia said that "we have applied creativity to this situation, implemented increased advertising and promotion, signed new and expanded agreements with tour operators, intensified our presence in key international markets and continue to work with air partners to increase and maintain airlift."

New lift includes JetBlue's service from Fort Lauderdale to Santo Domingo, starting June 18, and Boston to Santo Domingo, starting June 19.

The carrier will offer twice-daily flights starting June 10 from New York Kennedy to Santiago and a daily flight between New York and Santo Domingo on June 17.

JetBlue plans to open two more ticket offices in the D.R., one in Santo Domingo at the Mega Center shopping complex and the other northeast of Santiago, in San Francisco de Macroris. The carrier already maintains two offices in Santo Domingo.

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