The Dominican tourism sector wants to be much more than sun and beach and expand beyond the iconic Punta Cana, which is why it is betting on diversification, after having been ahead of other destinations in the recovery of this sector after the pandemic.
Tourism is the main economic activity in the Dominican Republic and, to shore up that position, its strategy is “geographical diversification of the product and the product itself,” the president of the Dominican Republic Hotel and Tourism Association (Asonahores), Rafael Blanco, told Efe.
The area of Punta Cana, in the east of the country, is the mainstay of Dominican tourism -60% of the travelers the country receives arrive through its airport-, but the Dominican government and hoteliers are investing to take vacationers to the beaches along the coast.
Pedernales, a hitherto virgin area in the southwest, is the “anchor project” of Dominican tourism, with an investment estimated at 3,000 million dollars in the next decade.
Work has also begun on new hotels in Miches, near Punta Cana, while steps are being taken to relaunch Puerto Plata (north), the original cradle of tourism in the country, and investment is being made in Samaná (northeast) with a model based on small establishments. .
The philosophy is “totally ecological and sustainable”, so that “mistakes of the past” are not made in environmental matters, said the person in charge of Asonahores.
Beyond geographic diversification, the Dominican Republic is taking steps to grow in other segments, such as conferences and health, which generate much higher income per tourist than sun and beach, a segment in which 94.6% of the total is concentrated. market.
To explore the conference segment, in which there is ample room for growth, the Dominican State has just made an alliance with Ifema, Spain’s leading operator of fairs and congresses, which is preparing a study to design the strategy for events and conventions in Santo Domingo, Blanco explained.
In addition, he has already structured the Convention Bureau, an entity that will promote Santo Domingo internationally as a center for the business segment.
With all these open fronts, “we are going to set the growth limit for ourselves,” said Blanco.
The diversification strategy also targets health tourism, which generated revenue of 265 million dollars in the country in 2018, according to the latest study on this segment.
That study, by the Dominican Association of Health Tourism, reveals that each patient spends about 7,500 dollars on average, a figure much higher than the nearly 985 dollars that each foreign tourist spends on average.
To promote health tourism, last December President Luis Abinader entrusted the Ministries of Public Health and Tourism to work on the development of policies and strategies for its development and to carry out a survey of available medical centers.
The Vice Minister of Tourism, Jacqueline Mora, said on Wednesday that the country’s authorities have begun contacts with rating companies, with the purpose of obtaining the necessary international certifications, which the country now lacks.
“Initially, it will be oral health and also the wellness part (well-being), which is within health tourism and where we can go much faster,” said the deputy minister.
Currently, the country’s clinics receive mainly tourists from the Dominican and Latino diaspora “who do not have the capacity to go to the United States and come to the Dominican Republic,” said the director of Asonahores.
But now the country wants to raise the bar so that Americans, Canadians, Europeans and citizens of other countries in the region come for medical treatment.
Health tourism, in addition to generating more income than the nearly 6 million annual sun and beach tourists that the country receives, would also have strategic importance.
“Because it increases the country’s health capacity in general and that projects it as a safe place that has the capacity to deal with any situation,” adds Blanco.