By Alexander Britell
While the Dominican Republic’s position as the most popular travel destination in the Caribbean by visitor volume has no particularly close challenge, the country isn’t resting on its laurels.
Yes, the country has publicly set a rather intimidating goal: 10 million annual tourists by the year 2023.
And while it remains to be seen if the destination can actually attain that level of visitor volume, one thing is clear: the Dominican Republic is certainly giving it a good shot.
The country’s tourism sector is surging again so far in 2018, with a 6.14 percent increase in stayover tourist arrivals in the first half of 2018, according to the latest numbers released by the Dominican Republic’s central bank, confirmed by a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
That represented a total of 3,440,505 passengers in the first half of 2018, the most in the Caribbean by far, with Cuba in second with around 2.5 million stayover visitors.
Of course, the vast majority of visitors continue to converge on Punta Cana, meaning if the country is to reach that goal it will have to spread the visitor volume to new poles, from Puerto Plata to Santo Domingo.
The latter seems to be an area of focus, as new hotels pop up and others get reinvigorated (most notably the historic El Embajador).
It’s something the aviation sector is also noticing: indeed, in May, JetBlue launched new daily flights to Santo Domingo out of Newark, while, two months later, low-cost competitor Spirit announced plans to launch daily nonstop flights on the same Newark-Santo Domingo route beginning in November.
The challenge will be positioning destinations like Santo Domingo as unique sub-destinations in the country — something that has inarguably worked for Punta Cana.
That has worked in large part due to the brilliance of Grupo Puntacana, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is behind another major tourism pole project: Puntarena, a $1.5 billion development in the southern region of the Dominican Republic that covers 15.5 million square meters and whose first phase could mean more than 4,000 hotel rooms.
Will the Dominican Republic get to 10 million? It’s hard to bet against the proposition.
But it won’t be easy, either.