Above: Ana Garcia Sotoca Pascual(CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
While Punta Cana is the Dominican Republic’s main tourism centre, the eastern half of Hispaniola has a wide range of tourism destinations, large and small. The country, which is currently receiving around 4.6 million visitors annually, is aiming to receive 10 million annual visitors by 2023. To do that, it will have to continue to diversify diversify its offerings, highlighting areas like La Romana. To learn more about the tourism sector in La Romana, Caribbean Journal caught up with Ana Garcia-Sotoca Pascual, executive director of the La Romana-Bayahibe Hotel Association at the DATE conference in Punta Cana.
How has the market been performing of late in La Romana?
The market has been very good for the last few years. This year, the high season was very good — all the hotels were booked from January, and are still booked.
What’s driving that?
I think it’s because we are a small destination, so it’s very easy to fill the hotels. We also have a very special location — close to the national parks, Saona Island, and the beaches are quieter than other places in the country. It’s a small place, more tasteful — those are some of the reasons.
Where are most of the tourists coming from?
I would say about 60 percent from Europe, and 40 percent from the US.
What initiatives are you working on right now?
We have a very good working plan — we’re working with promotion and also with the community. One thing we’re very involved with is the environment, so we have a very active programme, doing cleaning and trying to change the way people think here, to start creating a real eco-system here.
Is eco-tourism something you want to focus on?
Yes, we have some places like the Chavón River, which are very strong eco-tourism destinations.
Above: La Romana
What do you think makes La Romana unique in the Dominican Republic?
We have islands — Saona, Catalina, the national park — one of the biggest in the country — we have places like Altos de Chavon, unique in the country. So there are many things that make us different than any other destination.
Where do you see tourism in the Dominican Republic right now?
Well, I think it has changed a lot. For example, Punta Cana used to be a lot of Europeans or Spaniards, and now we have a lot of Russians, and a lot of Canadians as well. The markets are changing. So this is something where the hotels will have to change a little bit as well.