Dominican tourism board aims $2.4M at U.S. arrivals market

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LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic -- The Dominican Republic continues to welcome more U.S. visitors every year, but there is room for more growth, according to Ramon Alfredo Bordas, secretary of tourism for the Dominican Republic.

Speaking at the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE), Bordas announced the tourism board's commitment to invest $2.4 million toward the development and implementation of co-marketing programs with North American-based tour operators, airlines and cruise lines.

"We'd like to have a larger portion of the U.S. market," Bordas said at the conference, which was held in Casa de Campo.

Most vacationers to this Caribbean nation come from Europe.

Bordas noted that there was a 26% increase in visitors from the U.S. in the last four months of 2000.

Overall tourist arrivals increased by about 12.4%, from 2.6 million in 1999 to 3 million in 2000, according to government figures.

But 65% of the visitors were from Europe, and Bordas highlighted additional steps the government is taking to increase the percentage of U.S. arrivals.

Recent efforts have resulted in increased air and cruise capacity for the country.

Bordas reported that this year there are 113,000 additional airline seats available into the Dominican Republic from the U.S.

The country also expects an increase in cruise arrivals, up from 138,000 passengers who visited the country in 2000 to an anticipated 340,000 arrivals this year.

As part of the new marketing plan, the country's seven North American tourism offices have been converted from consumer information centers into sales offices.

The offices -- in Chicago, Houston, Miami, Montreal, New York, San Juan and Toronto -- will work with the tourism board's industry partners to develop promotional brochures, print and radio advertising, special events and fam trips geared toward increasing tourism to the country.

Travel agent education, including fam trips, is a priority, Bordas added.

The DATE conference itself, which was held for the first time last year, is also a symbol of tourism growth.

In 2001, the conference attracted 75 suppliers vs. 60 the first year.

The conference also highlighted other tourism figures, such as hotel room numbers.

Room supply increased more than 5% in 2000 and now totals 52,000 rooms.

Punta Cana, with more than 18,000 hotel rooms, is the most popular tourist destination in the nation; in 2000, it received 35% of all incoming tourists.

According to statistics from the Punta Cana Resort and Club, 888,852 tourists arrived in 2000 at Punta Cana Airport, which is run by the owners of the hotel.

This was an increase of more than 35% over 1999 arrivals.

For more information, call the Dominican Republic's department of tourism at (800) 723-6138 or visit www.dominicana.com.do.

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