Abdalah Castillo, Director of the Dominican Republic Tourism Office, Toronto, Canada, has high hopes for the winter season. Buoyed by high vaccination rates in the country, stringent health protocols and a robust flight program from Canada, he tells Travelweek that the DR is absolutely ready to welcome back tourists. In this week’s Take 5, we ask him about the measures in place to safeguard health and safety, what Canadians can expect while on the ground, and what his message is to valued travel agent partners.
- What is the Dominican Republic’s current entry requirements for Canadian adults and children?
First, fulfill the requirement of the e-ticket. Travellers from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Panama, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Puerto Rico and more do not need to present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival to enter the Dominican Republic. Airports and other ports of entry will perform a quick, aleatory breath test to a percentage of passengers and all those who present symptoms upon arrival. Passengers under the age of five and crew members are exempt from this procedure. Passengers who present a vaccination card no less than 3 weeks after the last dose was placed, or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in the Dominican Republic, will be exempted from the random test. All passengers will also need to perform a temperature check.
Passengers who present symptoms or whose test results are positive will be isolated and attended at authorized locations. Prior to departure, travellers should confirm with their airline provider and airport of origin regarding any testing or other related requirements for inbound flights to the Dominican Republic, or necessary requirements needed upon arrival to their country of origin.
- What can Canadians expect once they’re in the DR? Is life back to normal?
The occupation level in hotel establishments is allowed up to 100%. The capacity in vehicles destined by the tourist establishments for their employees or tourists is allowed up to 90%. The level of occupation in excursions, marine transport, activities at ranch, horse and aquatic parks is allowed up to 85%.
Activities related to land tourist transportation, cruises, travel agencies, tour operators, horse ranches, tourist rides, zip line, aquatic or recreational theme parks and paintball, maritime, transportation and water sports, diving school and parasailing will follow the same treatment indicated for hotel establishments, always safeguarding compliance with the provisions of the sectorial protocols issued for such purposes.
- The DR just celebrated its best-ever month of September on record. Bookings are obviously back – what would you attribute these record-breaking numbers to?
In my humble opinion, I think this success is based on the efforts of the Dominican health cabinet, led directly by the President of the Dominican Republic, HE. Luis Abinader, and our Minister of Tourism, Hon. David Collado, who focused on a fast program of vaccinations for all Dominicans, especially those working in the tourism industry, and applying a strict program and norms from all the international sanitary guidelines. In addition, there’s been great support from the private sector – hotels, DMCs, tour companies, transport companies, and more. They’ve enforced the measures without hesitation. It’s been excellent teamwork.
- What will airlift be like this winter from Canada?
We received data with all flight frequencies from all our partners who operate tourism to the DR and the expectations are amazing. Airlift will include from several cities in Canada to several destinations to the DR, including a new direct flight to the capital Santo Domingo. Plus, we’ll have regular destinations as well like Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samana and La Romana.
- What is your message to travel agents heading into the winter season?
To all travel agents, wholesalers and tour operators, the DR is absolutely ready to host your beloved clientele with open arms. We offer a safe environment with 95% of all employees in the tourism industry vaccinated, including hotels, transport companies and excursion providers, among others, and tested under the strictest international health protocols. These safety measures cover the entire stay for our tourists, since they get off the plane until their return home.