Visitor numbers could hit another record in the Dominican Republic

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The Barcelo Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana.
The Barcelo Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana.

Based on year-to-date numbers, the tourism sector in the Dominican Republic is health and on target for another record year, according to Fausto Fernandez, the country's deputy minister of tourism.

The D.R. continues to rack up impressive visitor figures that could top 2017's record of 6.18 million visitors, a jump of 3.9% over 2016. The U.S. leads the inbound markets, with more than two million of the D.R.'s total visitors.

The country accounted for 21% of all Caribbean travel in 2017.

"The first quarter of 2018 has reported stronger than ever numbers, with a 7.7% growth, one of the highest year-on-year growths on record," Fernandez said.

Hotel occupancy rates continue to run strong across the country's major tourist areas of Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, Romana, Boca Chica, Samana, Santiago and Puerto Plata.

Fernandez attributed this strength in large part to new hotel rooms that opened last year, bringing the number of rooms to 77,259. But the construction boom continues, as 15,000 rooms will be added and 6,000 existing rooms updated this year.

While air is the main mode of travel to the D.R., Fernandez said that cruise arrivals are surging as well, particularly at the Amber Cove cruise port in Maimon, 15 minutes south of Puerto Plata. The port opened in October 2015 and now sees an average of 15,000 cruise visitors weekly, he said.

He said that tourists continue to look for vacation experiences beyond the beach and their hotels, noting that day-trippers to Saona Island from resorts in Punta Cana numbered more than 700,000 last year and that more than 682,000 visitors toured the sights in the Colonial City in Santo Domingo. 

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