Punta Cana recently celebrated the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) 2023, the most important tourism fair of this attractive Caribbean island destination promoted by the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES).
Leading the meeting, David Collado, the country’s Minister of Tourism, said that between January and March, the Dominican Republic received 2.8 million tourists, confirming the industry’s boom, which, according to the Dominican Central Bank, represents 25 percent of the nation’s economy.
In front of the essential hoteliers, travel agencies, tour operators, and service providers of the tourism industry, Collado said that the Dominican Republic had become an international benchmark in the sector with the arrival, in 2022, of more than 8.5 million tourists, of which 7.1 million visited by air.
“Never in history has our country surpassed 6.5 million tourists by air. The dream of the Dominican Republic is to reach 10 million tourists, and it will be a reality because we are planning to reach 9.8 million,” he said.
From the point of view of sustainable tourism, he assured that the Dominican Republic increasingly seeks to be a more environmentally friendly destination for which they will implement a vital resolution with which hotels will gradually eliminate the use of plastics. Another of the country’s key strategies is to reduce the price of air tickets with the signing of the Open Skies Treaty with the United States.
“We already had meetings with the State Department, and we hope that a delegation from the United States will come to the Dominican Republic to finalize this issue. The United States is our top tourist-sending nation.” He announced that the Dominican Republic had increased by more than 10 percent in terms of American tourists in the first quarter of the year compared to 2019.
“We are also evaluating the reduction of the tax on airplane fuel and the fuel price. This will be effective over the next month because of the European market, which is very important in summer tourism, and we need to see how we lower costs for airlines for long-haul flights,” Collado said. Indeed, it is important to note that Salim Arkuch, Vice President of Expedia Group for Latin America and the Caribbean, recognized the Dominican Republic as the number one producer in the Caribbean.
In addition, he reported that the Dominican Republic is leading specific meetings to seek a solution to the sargassum problem that affects Caribbean beaches. To that end, $6 million has been invested, of which $1 million has been sent to various universities for research. Along with this investment, he said that the Inter-American Development Bank supports 90 million dollars for the restoration of the Colonial City (Santo Domingo), which includes churches, neighborhoods, streets, and emblematic places of the Dominican Republic’s culture.
“This transformation includes art, fashion, and gastronomy. We will leave the Colonial City as a polished jewel because it is a treasure and heritage of humanity,” said the Minister of Tourism. In addition to this initiative, the government is promoting a project to improve beaches through a heavy investment focused on ending prostitution and abuse of young people.
According to Collado, security is one of the top priorities on the agenda; that’s why the Dominican Republic is investing more than $3 million to strengthen the tourist police. “In December, when more than 1 million tourists arrived by air and by cruise, we didn’t have a single incident to regret; and the same happened in Easter Week.”
Meanwhile, Andrés Marranzini, Vice President of ASONAHORES, said, in an exclusive interview with TravelPulse, that the Dominican Republic has already fully recovered the number of visitors, and now the challenge is to resume the agenda of improvements in terms of sustainability, in addition to other practices that developed before the pandemic.
“We are going to implement the Zero Plastic program throughout the Dominican Republic, and also, we are now reincorporating the agenda into programs for washing and reusing towels, optimizing refrigeration and the liquids used in their processes,” he said.
He also stressed that thanks to the implementation of the e-ticket, it has been possible to collect critical statistical information for the benefit of travel agencies. “With the e-ticket, we have found precious information, such as the type of passenger, their companions, the hotel they are looking for, etc. All this helps us to be much more efficient in optimizing resources and finding partners such as travel agents.”
He told TravelPulse that in the next 20 months, the Dominican Republic is projecting between 2,000 and 3,000 rooms in different destinations. Fortunately, many new entrants have booking schemes, distribution, and participant clubs. In the strategy that accompanies the marketing, the incorporation of the new rooms has been effective enough. He also said that the average stay of customers is seven days with an average expenditure of $100. Moreover, he assured that the Dominican Republic has recently focused on tourists from the East of the United States interested in activities such as culture, golf, sustainability and social work.
Another of the most relevant participants of DATE 2023 was Víctor Pacheco, CEO of Arajet, a low-cost airline based in Santo Domingo, which operates a network of 17 destinations in 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The executive told TravelPulse that they have recently inaugurated the routes to New York City, Miami and Puerto Rico.
“The idea is to establish our hub in Santo Domingo to connect these destinations with Mexico City, Cancun, Guatemala, San Salvador, San José, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, Medellín, Bogotá, Quito, Guayaquil, Lima, Aruba, Caracas, San Martin and Jamaica; in addition to expanding to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay.”
He noted that Arajet is committed to fuel-efficient operations with state-of-the-art sustainable aircraft. “When we started 2022, the company made a big effort with MAX 737 aircraft because we believe in sustainability, so now we have the youngest fleet of sustainable aircraft throughout the region,” said Pacheco, and he said that this allows them to offer the best cost per kilometer.
He reported that, with its 17 routes and 42 new connections, Arajet has made more than 2,500 flights and transported more than 180,000 passengers. “We have travel agencies and tour operators as partners. Those interested can send us an email to make a customized plan for them; we have a list of about 300 partners with direct access to our website, and we want more,” said Pacheco.
For this year, Ajaret plans to open 10 new routes, in addition to doubling its fleet to close the year with 10 aircraft equipped to operate with a 14 percent fuel reduction over the most efficient single-aisle aircraft, plus a 50 percent reduction compared to other aircraft. “For now, our flights are focused on the Americas with the idea of democratizing travel in the region. By the end of our five-year plan, we will have to operate 54 destinations in America with a fleet of about 25 aircraft,” says the Arajet CEO.
Finally, he stressed that, as part of the company’s social responsibility program, the Pilot for a Day initiative has been created (with volunteers from Arajet) that consists of students from various schools in low-income areas, cohabiting with pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and technicians to learn and planting development possibilities “so that children have decent dreams and that, in this way, commercial aviation can continue to grow.”
ASONAHORES, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, created DATE in 2000 to highlight the Dominican tourism product by offering a commercial exchange for international wholesalers, tour operators, incentive groups, airlines, and charter operators to generate business with the most crucial tourist suppliers of the Dominican Republic.
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