Above: Punta Palmera (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
PUNTA CANA — The Dominican Republic has big ambitions for its tourism sector, hoping to attract 10 million annual visitors by 2023.
That would represent a drastic jump from its current totals of almost 4.6 million, a number which already leads the Caribbean region.
“We should at least carry out the effort — when we fix goals, we can reach them,” said Radhames Martinez Aponte, technical vice minister at the Dominican Ministry of Tourism. “What we need is to reach an agreement to understand that all of us [in the industry] are part of one system.”
Coming close to that number will require efforts both to increase the number of visitors from traditional markets and to tap new ones, like Russia, which Aponte said Wednesday had seen significant growth in the last two years.
The Ministry is also making a renewed push for Latin America, particularly countries in the “Southern cone” such as Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
“These are the countries that have the great projections for growth,” he said. “Even though they have problems with the valuations of their currencies, they’re important potential markets.”
Another targeted destination is China, he said.
“To reach this 10 million figure, we need to carry out many efforts in so many markets,” Aponte said. “We’ve gone to China and are starting to make arrangements to have the Dominican Republic chosen as an approved destination.”
Reaching 10 million will, naturally, also require more funding. That may not be a problem going forward, with the Ministry having been allocated $13.3 million for 2013 — the largest budget in the history of the Ministry.
For now, the 10 million figure seems more of an incentive rather than a hard number.
The point is simply to set higher goals to drive growth, according to Luis Emilio Rodriguez, president of ASONAHORES, the Dominican Republic’s hotel and tourism association.
“If we go over that, we’ve won — if we get 90 percent of that, we’ve won,” he said.