SAN JUAN -- That the Dominican Republic is a hot destination these
days was made abundantly clear at the Caribbean Hotel Association's
(CHA) Caribbean Marketplace 2003, held here last month.
Rafael Subveri Bonilla, minister of tourism for the Dominican
Republic, manned the destination's booth on the trade show
He held numerous appointments with suppliers, negotiating
additional charter airlift into the country for this summer and
fall as well as for the next winter season.
Bonilla reported that the level of activity at the booth
confirmed that "more travelers want to visit the destination than
there is airlift available. We have seen a surge of interest in
recent months, and the activity at this conference speaks
The minister said that additional charter flights had been
signed from U.S. gateways including Cleveland; Detroit; Fort
Lauderdale, Fla.; Miami; and New York as well as from San Juan to
Punta Cana, Puerto Plata and other resort areas.
In between appointments, Bonilla announced that the Dominican
Republic soon will launch a $20 million advertising and promotional
campaign in the U.S., targeting a variety of markets.
"This will be an aggressive campaign," he said. "It will join
the public and private sectors in a cooperative venture so we can
capitalize on our upward trend in tourism."
Close to $12 million also has been allocated for a similar
program in Europe, primarily in England and France.
Bonilla said that the campaign "will focus on niche markets,
such as weddings, golf, culture and history, adventure sports and
One thrust will target the destination's arts, crafts and
"We want the Dominican Republic to become a focal point for
shopping with commercial duty-free zones in various hotels, ports
and cities so our visitors can benefit from tax-free purchases,"
The minister, who thanked the tour operators "who have believed
in us," said that "there is still a lot to be done" in the
Dominican Republic, referring specifically to programs to sustain
beaches and "freshen the faces of some resort areas."
Upcoming developments include a new homeport area at Puerto
Plata with a convention center, golf course, 400-slip marina and a
Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, executive director of the Puerto
Plata Hotel Association, said he was pleased "with the recuperation
of the Dominican Republic in the travel arena."
Two more international airports soon will open in the Dominican
Republic, bringing the total airport count to nine.
Castellanos said the CHA will host its annual industry
conference in Punta Cana in June.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase not only
Punta Cana but also the destination as a whole," he said.