Saturday, April 27, 2013

Doing Business in the Dominican Republic

Melanie Reffes
Punta Cana
April 2013

Organized by the National Hotel and Tourism Association of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES) and hosted at the Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort, the lucky 13th edition of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) was a spirited affair at the Punta Cana Resort and adjoining Convention Center. 

Aerial view Barcelo Bavaro ( credit: Bavaro Resorts )

Flags from around the world ( credit: M. Reffes ) 

Convention Center ( credit: Bavaro Resorts ) 

The leading event for buying and selling the DR, the trade show is a hot ticket for tour operators, airline representatives, hoteliers and government officials from the United States, Canada, Germany and the Caribbean as well as from emerging markets including Russia, Spain and South America.

Perennially popular with tourists, it’s no surprise Punta Cana made the ‘Top 2013 Summer Hotspot ‘list issued by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). According to feedback from travel agents who book the country, Punta Cana rated high for ‘family-friendly activities, resort entertainment and opportunities for relaxation.”

Zip Lining in Punta Cana (credit: DRTM)

Do the Math

“2012 was an exceptional year for us with the arrival of six million tourists and a growth rate of 4.95 percent over last year.”   That from Radames Martinez-Aponte, vice-minister, ministry of tourism who added the arrival numbers rank ‘higher than those reported in Cuba, Jamaica and Riviera Maya.’   Although he attributed ‘frequent airlift and proximity to North America ‘to popularity of the country, he added   ,” our greatest advantage are the relationships we have with tour operators and travel agents.” With a goal to attract ten million visitors by 2023, the Tourism Ministry allocated USD$13.3 million dollars for 2013, the largest budget in the history of the Ministry. “When we fix goals, we can reach them,” said Radhames Martinez Aponte, vice minister, ministry of tourism.

Radames Martinez-Aponte, vice-minister, ministry of tourism (credit: M. Reffes ) 

Rooms with a View

A division of Toronto-based Sunwing Canada, Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts will open The Royalton Punta Cana Resort and Royalton Splash on November 9. The twin all-inclusives on Bavaro Beach will offer 1145 rooms, 600 in the Royalton and 545 in the Splash. “Guests can stay at one and play at two,” said Todd Kirlick, director, sales and marketing. In just two years,” said Antonio Herrera, director, Blue Diamond Hotels, “we will have opened 5000 rooms in three countries: Jamaica, Cuba and now the DR with plans to also build in the Bahamas and Mexico. Royalton White Sands will open in Montego Bay in October.   

The Sheraton brand is coming back to Santo Domingo in December with the opening of a 225-room Starwood hotel. Owned by Hoteles Nacionales and undergoing a US$6 million renovation, Sheraton Santo Domingo first opened as a Sheraton more than three decades ago and was later known as the Melia Santo Domingo.  The high-rise hotel is currently open as Magna 365 ahead of its debut as the Sheraton.  A Four Points by Sheraton Punta Cana Village is scheduled to open in October.  
Hotel Magna 365  (credit: Magna ) 
Designed by Milan-based Marina Nova and Dominican architect Franc Ortego, Eden Roc at Cap Cana is open with thirty four spacious suites, six restaurants with decor designed to look like the Italian Riviera, full-service spa and access to the Punta Espada Golf Course. www.EdenRocCapCana.comAlso at Cap Cana, the sea is the main character at Punta Palmera with thirty spacious condominiums set to open in June.  A host of extras include concierge service, three golf courses, pair of pools, on-site restaurant and access to the only full-service marina between Puerto Rico and the Turks and Caicos Islands. From April to August, the big ticket is fishing for blue and white marlin with guests asked to adhere to the resorts “catch and release” program.  “We are extremely excited about the opening of Punta Palmera, “said Matthew Doer, director, “and feel confident it will be a diamond in the country’s tourism landscape.”  

Punta Palmera  (photo credit: Cap Cana ) 

Play & Relax
Marking its first foray into the Spanish Caribbean, Island Routes will launch tours in September in Punta Cana, La Romana and Samana. “These will be soft adventure tours on land and in the water, “ said David Shields, general manager, Island Routes Caribbean Adventures , “and will include our popular horseback riding in the Sea, zip lining  and tours that showcase the rich cultural history of the DR.”  Expansion to the Dominican Republic is significant for the brand as it signals major growth for the Jamaica-based innovators, "added David Shields, general manager, “the sheer size of the DR is extremely important in Caribbean tourism which makes the destination highly appealing to us as we consider our expansion plans.” Island Routes will start tours in Grenada this month and is looking at setting up shop in St. Maarten and Aruba.

Left to right : Kurt Stout, business development officer, Javier Oberti, business development consultant and 
David Shields, general manager
  (credit: M. Reffes ) 

(photo credit: IRAT )

Club Med Punta Cana opened the Caribbean’s first L’occitane Spa after a million dollar face-lift that bought ten indoor treatment rooms, four oceanfront palapa massage huts, manicure and pedicure area, Zen Lounge for an added chill-out, infinity pool and a boutique that sells the chi-chi line of products. 

Beginning April 30, travel agents booking through MLT’s Delta Vacations and United Vacations brands can offer their clients three new adults-only resorts in Samana.  Operated by Bahia Principe, the resorts are the Grand Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado; Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa and the Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo. “We’re excited to add Samana to our product offering which already includes fifty-nine resorts in the DR,” said Karen Kammer, director, product development Caribbean.  Although whale watching tours are big sellers in the region , other bookable excursions include deep sea fishing and diving. . “Samana is home to a Humpback whale sanctuary which is the type of travel experience that creates lifelong memories,” added Karen Kammer, director, product development Caribbean.  SamanĂ¡ is the fifth destination sold by MLT Vacations following Santo Domingo, La Romana, Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.

Humpback whale ( credit: Ministry of Tourism) 
Cayo Levantado (credit: Ministry of Tourism) 

 Eye to the Future

Slated to open early next year on Playa Grande on the north coast, an Aman Resort and 18-hole championship golf course is currently under construction to the tune of a   USD$400 million investment.  When complete, the complex will include suites with private pools and villas built on the edge of the cliffs.  Further developments include equestrian center for those who either own horses or like to ride them. 

Set to open on December 20, Westin Puntacana is conveniently located five minutes from the international airport. The 400-room Starwood hotel will target the business and convention market although weddings and families are also on the radar. Offering ocean views from all of the rooms, other hotel treats include a cigar bar, Six Senses Spa, 24-hour business center and Westin Workout gym.  Sitting on a three miles white sandy beach, a bevy of water sports will be offered from scuba and kite boarding to catamaran cruises. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, Segway tours, horseback riding and golfing will be available.   

Click to make a Date in the Dominican Republic


                       Doing Business at DATE 
                     ( credit: M. Reffes ) 


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