Saturday, May 7, 2011

Make A DATE in the Dominican Republic

Organized by The Hotel and Tourism Association (ASONAHORES) and staged at the Hard Rock Hotel, the 12th annual Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) was held in Punta Cana in April. Sponsored by the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, the show affords product providers like hotels, travel agencies, airlines and excursions as well as banks and tour operators from the major feeder countries including US, Canada, Europe, South America and the Caribbean opportunities to meet and greet during three days of scheduled meetings. Hailed as the most attended DATE to date, this year’s event attracted 345 suppliers and 176 buyers.

The opening night fete at the just-opened Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana (formerly NH Royal Beach) and the next door Now Larimar Punta Cana (formerly NH Real Arena ) showcased the twin resorts and introduced the ‘Now” brand to the Caribbean. From sushi to sweets, a fabulous feast welcomed guests and delegates. “We have a strong, vested interest in expanding within the DR as we keep to our promise to provide our guests with the ultimate luxurious vacation experience in attractive destinations,” said Alex Zozaya, president and CEO. Nightly rates dip as low as $139.00 at Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana and $99.00 at the Now resort. “Our seven hotels in the DR are romantically-inspired, “smiles Christian Maiel, director of sales, “couples can marry on private islands or even in the spa.” The brand is slated to open a Zoetry Gems Cap Cana, Secrets Gems, Now Emerald and Now Pearl by 2013. Visit

The Numbers

Welcoming more than four million visitors in 2010, the tropical destination set a new record with a 3.3 percent increase over 2009 with the US market recording 27 percent of overall visitors or 198,000 people. The U.S. is the largest market with over one million visitors choosing the second largest Caribbean island nation as a vacation destination for six consecutive years. Overall, there was an increase of 83,022 visitors (54 percent) from North America compared to the previous year.

Punta Cana reigns supreme as the most popular destination receiving 57 percent of arrivals with Santo Domingo the second most visited with 22 percent followed by Puerto Plata on the north coast.

Getting There

Apple Vacations announced new flights from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Punta Cana from June 2 to August 11 for 3, 4, 7, 10 and 14 night durations. Flights depart Sunday and Thursday mornings. Visit

American Eagle began daily nonstop service between Miami International Airport (MIA) and La Romana International Airport (LRM) on April 5. Flights depart Miami at 1:05 p.m. and arrive in La Romana at 3:20 p.m. Return flights leave La Romana at 3:55 p.m. and arrive in Miami at 6:35 p.m. La Romana is the official airport for the Casa de Campo resort. Visit

Hotel Buzz

Delta Vacations reported the brand has experienced substantial growth over the past two years following increased access to air seats and enhancements to product offerings. Passenger counts to the DR are 12 times greater than in the same time period in 2009, while the number of hotel room-nights sold has increased 15 times during the same time period. The percentage of passengers on each Delta Air Lines flight who have booked their trip through Delta Vacations has doubled and on some routes, such as Minneapolis – St. Paul to Punta Cana, 60% of flyers are Delta Vacations customers.

“Word is definitely spreading among travelers that Delta Vacations offers the best vacation packages to the Dominican Republic, for the very best value,” said Elizabeth Moriarty, VP, product development, MLT Vacations. “We have experienced tremendous growth throughout the Caribbean, with the D.R. leading the way. In the last year, we have expanded our business in the Caribbean by 32%, with an increase in room nights in the D.R. of 82% to date.” Three new destination-wedding hotels were added to the LIFESTYLE Collection including Hard Rock Hotel, Secrets Sanctuary Cap Cana, and Ocean Blue and Sand. A honeymoon program at ten resorts in the D.R. will be offered this month at ten hotels. . Delta Vacations currently sells air and hotel packages to four resorts in La Romana, thirty-six properties in Punta Cana and four hotels in Santo Domingo. Visit or call 1-800-800-1504

Following a brand upgrade, the Hard Rock, formerly the Moon Palace, is the first all-inclusive in the chain of hotels. With 1,780 rooms, the mega-resort boasts the largest casino in the country, 48-suite spa, 18-hole golf course, fifteen pools and eleven restaurants and bars. Luxury amenities include gratis long distance calls and Wi-Fi while iconic music memorabilia from Elton John’s hand-painted piano to Sammy Hagar’s 1926 hot rod is eye-candy for music fans. “This first all-inclusive property marks a major milestone for our brand that started with just a single cafe in 1971,” said Michael Shindler, vice-president, “As we celebrate Hard Rock’s 40th anniversary in 2011, we look forward to our growth, while staying true to our music vibe and rock ‘n’ roll roots.” For music groupies, the 3-bedroom Rockstar Suite is the ultimate indulgence with a baby grand piano and pool table. Visit

With a nod to the new film “ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” ,Casa de Campo is selling “Pirate’s Life” packages that include cave explorations, treasure hunts on the beach and pirate souvenirs. Additional draws include a restaurant by Le Cirque, equestrian centre and polo club. Visit

The Barceló Bavaro Palace Deluxe in Punta Cana opened the swanky U Spa with couples' massage cabins and terraces with daybeds and at the nearby 236-room Bavaro Casino Hotel; resort-wide upgrades are slated for completion by December. Visit

Eye to the Future

Once a sleepy fishing village, Samana is the next hot spot with untouched beaches, coral reefs, jungle-draped mountainsides and five thousand hotel rooms expected by 2015. Viva Residence Las Terrenas opened with 76 units while the adjoining Viva Bahia Estela offers 42 seaside suites each with two large bedrooms. Oozing luxury at every turn, the beachfront twin properties offer gourmet dining, water sports and amenities for newlyweds and honeymooners. Visit

Close to the charming town of Las Terrenas with its Spanish restaurants, shops selling amber jewelry and spirited corner bars pouring plenty of frosty Presidente beer, Balcones del Atlantico is the latest hotel to join the Rock Resorts portfolio. With 350 units and an eatery fronting the sea, the resort is catering to savvy travelers who want more from a DR vacation than a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana. A spa is slated to open later this year. Visit

On a thin strip of land in the northeast part of the DR, the Samana Peninsula is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Bahia (Bay) of Samana on the other. Playa Las Ballenas is a fine beach for snorkeling, diving and exploring underwater caves. Nearby, Playa Bonita is carpeted in golden sand inviting those seeking an authentic Caribbean chill-out. Short flights to Samana’s El Portillo airport fly daily from Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Tour operators selling Samana include Liberty-Gogo, Travel Impressions and Vacation Store. Visit

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For information regarding DATE, visit

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