SANTO DOMINGO -- Growth is the name of the game for the Dominican
Additional airports, hotel rooms and golf courses as well as
marina developments are on tap for the island, which played host to
the 23rd annual Caribbean Tourism Conference last month.
According to Felix Jimenez, the nation's secretary of tourism, the
Dominican Republic has maintained a steady growth in tourism and is
aiming to keep up with the needs of visitors.
In the first seven months of 1999, the Dominican Republic
reported an increase of 9.6% in arrivals. The resort area of Punta
Cana had the top growth rate on the island, with a gain of 18.5% in
the number of its visitors. Jimenez said so far this year the
island has welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors.
The tourism surge has resulted in the construction of additional
facilities. There are more than 44,000 hotel rooms throughout the
island, and by the end of 2000, there will be more than 50,000
rooms, Jimenez said. Within the next three years, there are slated
to be an additional 12,000 rooms open.
Jimenez added that 31 properties will open before the end of
2000. Four are set for Puerto Plata, three for the Samana area, 12
for Punta Cana, two for Bayahibe/La Romana, one for Boca
Chica/Playa Caribe and nine for other areas.
Improvements are being made to golf and airport facilities, with
five significant golf course developments under way, he said.
Two new courses are planned for the Casa de Campo resort in La
Romana, and three will open in Punta Cana by next year.
Jimenez said an airport that will accommodate wide-body aircraft
will open in La Romana. The airport is set to debut by the end of
A marina project with residential and commercial facilities as
well as 300 slips for boats and yachts is on tap for La Romana.
Jimenez said it was possible two or three slips would be used for
Catalina Island, near La Romana, currently serves as a port of
call for some cruise ships. The Dominican Republic reported 60,000
cruise passengers this year.
Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line
are among the lines that call at Santo Domingo and Catalina
Jimenez said he would like to see cruise ships return to Puerto
Plata. In the 1980s, there were six or seven ships a week that
headed to Puerto Plata, and now there are about two or three a
year, he said. According to Jimenez, work is being done at the
Puerto Plata port, and by next winter it is expected that five or
six vessels will stop there.
He said the Dominican Republic's most ambitious project is a
mixed-use development in Samana. It will boast 3,000 rooms with
three hotels, villas and private homes, an artificial lake, a
marina, a nautical club and sailing and navigation schools.
The complex will open in phases, and by late 2000, most of the
construction will be in place. The target completion date is
The improvement of four airports is another of the nation's
major projects. The government signed a deal with a four-nation
consortium, Aerodom, to upgrade and add facilities.
The first priority is to renovate the Santo Domingo facility and
work on the terminals. Also getting a refurbishment are the Puerta
Plata/Sosua, Samana and Barahona airports.
Jimenez said the Samana airport will be able to accommodate jets
in the future, and the work will be done in three stages.
The airport improvements are being made to keep pace with the
increase in scheduled and charter service.
Apple Vacations increased from two flights a week in 1997 to 20
flights during the 1999-2000 winter season. TWA has scheduled
service with one flight daily from New York (Kennedy) to Santo
Domingo and one to Puerta Plata. Continental offers daily flights
from New York (Newark) to Santo Domingo. Tower Air started with two
flights a week from New York (Kennedy) to Santo Domingo. The line
will increase its service to five flights next winter.
Other U.S. airlines such as United and Northwest are going
through the formalities to start routes to the island, he said.
Jimenez added that Aeromar will start Miami-Punta Cana service
twice a week this month. The line currently offers Miami-Santo
A program to renovate and build roads is under way in Boca
Chica, Sosua, Santiago, Samana, Puerto Plata and Bavaro. The island
is also aiming to educate U.S. agents, and Jimenez said more than
1,000 retailers took its specialist course.
Jimenez shared some tips on what to do and see on the island,
especially for first-time visitors.
He recommended the nation's golf facilities and cited Casa de
Campo and Playa Grande as having outstanding courses. Other
worthwhile endeavors included diving in Monte Cristi and Juan
Dolio, surfing in Punta Cana, touring baseball star Sammy Sosa's
home town of San Pedro de Macoris and exploring the old city of