With 772,000 visitors Canada is the D.R.’s second-largest market

PUNTA CANA — Tourism to the D.R. is up 6.4% with a total of 6.1 million visitors. The visitor count exceeds the D.R.’s original projections by 100,000.

The latest stats were announced at this year’s Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE).

The 2016 increase was a 10% jump from 2015’s visitor number and is just one of the many elements driving the overall growth of the economy, said the D.R.’s Vice Minister of Tourism Radhamés Martínez Aponte.

While the U.S. remains the largest source market for D.R. tourism with 2.1 million visitors in 2016, Canada was second with 772,000.

Dominican Republic’s hotel occupancy rate is 78%, up 18% from last year. Martínez Aponte said this is in large part to the 5,400 new hotel rooms that became available on the island in 2016. Puerto Plata (90% occupancy) and Santo Domingo (74% occupancy) saw “significant increases”, helping further drive this number, he said.

The growth does not stop there. Dominican Republic saw 69 new projects approved and will break ground to add and / or update existing hotel rooms in 2016. Once these reach completion, the country will add 8,000 new rooms.

Radhamés Martínez Aponte said he was please to see a reinvestment in long-standing hotel brands. Eden Roc is working to update all rooms, while Tortuga Bay is planning a full overhaul, closing from July 1 – October 1.

In terms of air arrivals, PUJ continues to be the main point of entry into the D.R., followed by Puerto Plata’s Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP) and La Romana International Airport (LRM). Together, the three airports represent 92% of foreign air travel into DR. The Dominican Republic currently has an open-sky policy, allowing for a large influx of flights – nine nationalities do not require a tourist visa, while 145 others (including the US and Canada) need only to purchase a tourist card upon landing. Radhamés Martínez Aponte said it is the country’s dream to eliminate the need for visas entirely and allow all to freely enjoy the variety of attractions.

With Amber Cove in Puerto Plata opening in 2015, cruise arrivals were once again up with a 52% increase, coming in at 832,000 visitors. Since Amber Cove’s inauguration, an average of 5,000 cruise visitors arrive weekly to the area, shifting by season. This growth trend is predicted to continue with an estimated one million cruise ship passengers forecasted to visit the D.R. in 2017.

Radhamés Martínez Aponte said visitors to the D.R. continue to look for vacations beyond the beach and are showing greater interest in multi-destination travel, noting that 80% of all visits to the D.R.’s protected areas are by foreigners. In 2016 Saona Island saw 900,000 visitors as part of day-trips from resorts in Punta Cana, while the Colonial City saw 500,000.

Radhamés Martínez Aponte said MITUR is committed to expanding the D.R.’s multi-destination offerings and diversifying its segmentation. With more than 8,000 kilometres of roads created or expanded within the past three years, all major touristic areas are now connected and most are accessible within a two-hour drive, he said.

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