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Friday, 02 May 2014 12:11

Dominican Republic

Written by  Melanie Reffes

Caribbean-DRIt was a frenzy of activity at the new Paradisus Palma Real Convention Center in Punta Cana as buyers and sellers walked the trade floor meeting, greeting and deal-making. The most anticipated trade event in the country, DATE or the Dominican Annual Tourist Exchange is organized by the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES) and co-sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the three-day show was the epicenter of action for tour operators, travel agents, wholesalers, hoteliers, airline representatives and government officials from the US, Canada, Europe and South America. “Last year was an extraordinary year,” said Radhames Martinez-Aponte, vice minister of tourism. “Our arrivals grew by 3.6 percent compared to the entire Caribbean, which grew by only one percent.” Last year, the DR welcomed 4.7 million stay over visitors with the US the largest source market with 1.6 million arrivals, followed by Canada with nearly 700,000.

The 2014 marketing campaign called “Has it All“ spotlights the roads-less-traveled, in addition to the more crowded tourist meccas on the east coast. “We are a diverse destination that prides itself on offering unforgettable trips to travelers of varying interests. The campaign entices first visits and return visits to a new area of the country as each region provides an experience like no other,” said Magaly Toribio, marketing advisor for the ministry of tourism.

Hosting the trade show, 554-room all-inclusive Paradisus Palma Real on Bavaro Beach offers three pools, casino, six bars, upscale Passion restaurant, spa and plenty of options for the active traveler like beach volleyball, aqua aerobics and snorkeling . For those splurging on a higher-end more expensive stay, 214-room adults-only “Royal Service” includes unlimited green fees at the Cocotal Golf Club, gratis cell phones for receiving international calls and butler service. A Melia property, the resort is now targeting the meeting market with a new on-site convention and business center. “There is clearly great potential for us because this group travels year round and confirms rooms in bulk,”  said Rafael Torres, general

Along a stretch of sand dotted with coconut palms, Club Med Punta Cana is the granddaddy of the all-inclusive vacation with a Mini Club Med for kids, three restaurants including the renovated beachfront Celeste and the first and only L’Occitane-branded Spa in the Caribbean. For families needing a bit more space, Tiara Luxury is a boutique hotel within the resort and tempts with multiple bedroom suites, concierge service, private pool and secluded Pearl Bar. Outdoorsy families won’t be bored with windsurfing, sailing, flying trapeze, fourteen tennis courts, Tom Fazio designed 18-hole Corales Golf Club and 27-hole P.B. Dye designed La Cana with three nines and fourteen oceanfront holes.

Sirenis Resorts launched a travel agent program aptly called “Sirenis Passport” providing sales resources and marketing tools to sell the 816-room Sirenis Punta Cana Resort and Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya. “This program allows agents to have everything they need right at their fingertips, plus we will continue to roll out exclusive incentives,” said Amanda Carlow, director of sales and marketing. “This program differs from others as it is not only a loyalty program like many are, but also provides agents with analytics and reporting tools to monitor their Sirenis bookings.” Agents who join before July 31 are eligible to win a three-night stay at either property. Added to the all-inclusive package at the Punta Cana Resort, access to the Aquagames Waterpark includes play time on the high-speed water slides, zero-entry shallow pool for kids and a four-lane aqua racer.

Diamonds on the Beach
Twelve hotels received top honors by AAA including Tortuga Bay with a 5-Diamond rating and Casa de Campo, Casa Colonial Beach, Catalonia Royal Bávaro, Bannister Hotel, Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana, Dreams Punta Cana, Hard Rock Hotel, Paradisus Palma Real Resort, Paradisus Punta Cana, Sivory Punta Cana Boutique and Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana awarded 4-Diamond distinctions.

Eden Roc at Cap Cana is now a member of Relais & Châteaux; one of seven in the Caribbean and the first in the DR to be named to the group. The premier property in the Solaya Resorts portfolio is surrounded by a Jack Nicklaus golf course and caters to a swanky crowd who come for the gourmet menu at Mediterraneo, cocktails at the Italian-inspired Riva Bar and “Moonlight Massages“ at the adjacent Caleton Beach Club. Nightly rates start at $800 for a Junior Suite.

In the historic town of Sosua on the north coast, Casa Veintiuno made Trip Advisor’s list of the top twenty-five boutique hotels in the Caribbean. Elegantly private with just three rooms, the petite hotel offers a gourmet restaurant with an impressive wine list.

Sassy Santo Domingo
The 255-room Sheraton Santo Domingo re-opened in March with a casino and outdoor pool on a terrace overlooking the Caribbean Sea. After a $20 million facelift, the landmark hotel is now going after the business market with the addition of thirteen meeting rooms and convention facilities. Operated by the DR-based Hoteles Nacionales, the US branded hotel fronts George Washington Avenue, the scenic seaside boulevard known as the “Malecón”. “By offering the Sheraton brand, we are expanding our market to attract both the business and leisure traveler to this historic city,“ said Paula Lama, vice presidentof Hoteles Nacionales.

New in the city’s colonial quarter and a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Casas del XVI offers history buffs a choice of seventeen rooms in five restored 16th century homes. Rates start at $225 per room, per night and include breakfast prepared by the butler in each house’s kitchen.

From the Trade Floor
“Carnival Cruise Lines will open a cruise ship terminal in November in Puerto Plata which will make this part of the country more appealing to tourists,” said Radhomes Martinez-Aponte, vice minister of tourism for the Dominican Republic.

“We fly to the DR more often than any other US-based airline and will be adding flights from Fort Lauderdale to Punta Cana and from Newark to Santiago on May 1,“ announced Jessica Banchs, manager of international sales for JetBlue.

“Our tours cover the entire country, although our Safari tours that take tourists inside cigar factories, to pineapple plantations and for tastings in rum distilleries are by far the most popular,” said Nadira Garufi, director of salesfor Outback Adventures.

“Marriott understands the guest experience which is why we are undergoing such a pricey renovation to the entire property,“ said Maria Checo, sales manager for Renaissance Santo Domingo, referring to the $30 million upgrade which will close the hotel for one year beginning this spring.

Window Seat
Delta Vacations is adding daily service from JFK to Santo Domingo (SDQ) and Santiago (STI) beginning June 5. “By the end of this year, Delta is expected to have increased service into Punta Cana by more than thirty percent,” said Steven Bradley, product manager for MLT Vacations. Referring to flights from JFK and Atlanta to Punta Cana, Bradley added, “Bookings have seen triple digit growth from 2011 to 2013 and Delta Vacations’ destination weddings have more than quadrupled.” Delta Vacations offers packages to Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, La Romana and Samana. &

American Airlines installed six self-service machines at Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) to expedite the boarding pass process. The second busiest airport in the Caribbean and the country’s most popular. PUJ saw 2.6 million visitors in 2013, about a third of which were US travelers.

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