The recent opening of the Amber Cove Cruise Port in Puerto Plata tops the list of the ten most important tourism news of the Dominican Republic during 2015, according to the Dominican Association of Tourism Press (ADOMPRETUR). The other two top stories are the expansion of the Punta Cana International Airport and the pre-opening of the super luxury Aman Hotel in “Playa Grande,” on the country’s north coast.
The following top local stories were selected by a jury of recognized local journalists, specializing in the tourism sector.
1- The start of operations of the Amber Cove Cruise Port
Operated by the Carnival Cruise line, highlights the comeback of tourism in Puerto Plata, the country’s most important north coast city. The city’s tourism revival has been strengthened by the recent arrival of tourists and the renovation of many local hotels. The arrival of cruise ships to Amber Cove is by far one of the most important Dominican tourism stories in recent years. The region’s decline, which began in 2001, began to experience a complete turnaround beginning in 2012. All through 2015, the region experienced a remarkable rate of growth, although the growth registered remains below the national average. In addition, a modest but encouraging renewal of local hotels has also encouraged growth. Some examples: the “Gran Ventana” Hotel, completely renovated in 2015; the Barcelo Hotel, recently purchased by AM Resorts and also fully renovated, and the renovation and opening of the V Heavens as an adults-only hotel.
2- The Punta Cana airport is currently the busiest in the Caribbean
In 2015, the airport, situated in the country’s easternmost region, recorded the arrival of 3.3 million passengers and 66% of all tourists that visited the D.R. that particular year. It was also included on the list of 10 international airports outside the United States where the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service can pre-check passengers traveling to the U.S. Aside from demonstrating full confidence in the quality of service provided by the airport, this recent decision by the U.S. authorities has had an important impact on Dominican tourism. First, Punta Cana has become an attractive destination for the U.S. market because of this recently introduced facility. Second, it literally turns flights between the U.S. and the D.R. into local flights. Through this measure the Dominican tourism industry will extend its influence in the U.S. market.
3- The pre-opening of the Aman Hotel in “Playa Grande”
Operated by the super luxury Aman chain of hotels, one of the most recognized chains in the world in this particular sector, also became a top news story. The chain operates super luxury hotels, or 6-star facilities, throughout the world. These boutique hotels are built in areas of truly spectacular natural beauty. The chain’s presence in a particular region of the world immediately attracts the attention to this exclusive market. Guests staying at Aman hotels usually pay thousands of dollars for a one-night stay. The golf course at “Playa Grande” was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, and recently redesigned by Rees Jones, his son. The course was built on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered to be one of the most spectacular golf courses in the Western Hemisphere. “The Aman Playa Grande Beach Club” also features a golf club, an equestrian club, a kids club, tennis courts, a gymnasium and the Aman Spa.
4- Investment in the local hotel sector increased significantly
With four thousand new rooms, and the refurbishing of an additional four thousand, the sector also launched the construction of six new hotels featuring 4,161 rooms (a six percent increase) in 2015. In addition, 8,096 rooms (12% of the national inventory) were completely refurbished. Also, the industry celebrated the opening of new hotels: the AlSol Tiara Collection (125 rooms) in Punta Cana; Now Garden Punta Cana (180 rooms), and Club Med’s “Zen Oasis,” an adults-only section (78 rooms). The following new facilities also opened their doors last year: In Juan Dolio, the beachfront community situated 45 minutes east of Santo Domingo, the Hodelpa chain opened the 293-room Hodelpa Beach Resort; in Puerto Plata, on the north coast, the 190-room adults only V Heavens and the 190-room Viva Wyndham Resorts. In Samana, on the beautiful northeast region, the 144-room V Samana –operated by Viva Wyndham Resorts -and the 149-room Luxury Bahia Principe Samana.
5- The country’s southwest region
The country’s southwest region began to benefit from the country’s dynamic tourism industry. In the southwest town of Bani, situated one hour west of Santo Domingo, the public and private sectors participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the “Punta Arena” project and the design of a tourism development project in the border-region town of Pedernales. These various projects formally marked 2015 as the year that tourism development was officially launched in the country’s beautiful southwest region.
6- During 2015 some 5.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic
During 2015 some 5.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, and the German and Spanish markets – two of the most important tourism markets for the D.R. – begin to recover. The arrival of international tourists jumped by 8.9%, repeating the excellent numbers registered in 2014 when the authorities registered a 9.6% increase in the number of visitors traveling to the D.R. These numbers exceed growth registered at the international and regional levels. The German market began to drop in 2012 but, beginning in 2013 through 2015, growth reported reached 16%, 15% and 8%, respectively. The same occurred with the Spanish market which, after several years in decline, the trend turned around in 2014 with a 5% jump. In 2015, that number registered an impressive 16%.
7- Cap Cana inaugurated its world-class equestrian club “Los Establos.”
This recently inaugurated luxurious equestrian complex, the largest in the Caribbean, places the country as a premier destination for lovers of this particular activity. This is part of the solid growth of the Punta Cana complex which recently opened the Pearl Club, expanded the Cirque de Soleil, inaugurated the Dolphinarium, and introduced new restaurants to the popular Downtown area. The Spanish-based Globalia Group also inaugurated the Kwiar Disco.
8- The construction of the modern highway between Punta Cana and Miches
The construction of the modern highway that brings together the Punta Cana region and the northeast town of Miches eliminates the old and winding road that was once the only link between these two beautiful regions. The area covers approximately 120 kilometers of pristine coastline featuring white sand beaches, rivers, natural lakes and other breathtaking features. The new highway also links the northern town with the region’s important international airports. Leading the construction of new hotels in the region is the Cisneros Group, the developers of the Tropicalia- Four Seasons tourism project, a new standard for the development of sustainable luxury tourism.
9- Health tourism sector
The country’s tourism sector officially launched an impressive health tourism sector, with the international certification of Santo Domingo’s “Plaza de la Salud” (Health Plaza). In 2015, the Dominican Association of Health Tourism, the acceptance of the sector to the Dominican Association of Hotels and Tourism (ASONAHORES), and a first seminar on the subject took place in the D.R. During the last four years there has been an exponential increase in the number of medical cases that are referred to the Dominican Republic from other Caribbean islands, mostly European patients, a phenomenon that according to health insurance companies has come about because the Dominican Republic is considered a safe and very competitive destination when compared to the United States.
10- In 2015, the adults-only sector grew significantly
In 2015, the adults-only sector grew significantly, both in the construction of new hotels, or the addition of specific sections of already existing hotels to meet the demands of this growing sector. In 2014, an additional 431 adults-only rooms were added to two specific hotels. Last year, that number jumped to 804 rooms in seven hotels. In addition, last year this particular sector created two specific brands of adults-only, all-inclusive, hotels: the “V Collection,” launched by Viva Resorts and the “Hoteles Select,” operated by the Amhsa Marina chain. The “V Collection” brand opened the “V Samana” in the northeast tourism town of “Las Terrenas” on Coson Beach, and the “V Heaven” in Playa Dorada, in the north coast city of Puerto Plata. The Amhsa Marina group opened the “Select Samana” in “Las Galeras” Beach – also on the north coast – and began to prepare for the future opening of the “Select Punta Cana.” In addition, the Riu Hotels & Resorts chain of hotels began the construction of a new all-inclusive hotel for adults only in Punta Cana, scheduled to open in the summer of 2016, with 1,007 rooms.