Tourist arrivals to the Dominican Republic totaled 1.3 million visitors from January through March, up 8% over the same period last year, according to figures released by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic.

Felix Jimenez, tourism minister, predicted that by 2012, the D.R. will receive 5 million visitors a year, which will be a 1 million increase over expected 2008 totals.

Analysis of the first quarter indicated a 9% jump in the U.S. market, while the U.K., Belgium, Spain, Russia, Mexico and Peru also registered double-digit and higher increases.

Punta Cana, on the island's east coast, remained the most popular destination in the D.R. for its visitors. The region's international airport received approximately 44% of 2008 first-quarter arrivals.

The second most visited airport was Las Americas in Santo Domingo, with close to half of the remaining arrivals, followed by Puerto Plata on the north coast.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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