The Dominican Republic reaped the most transcendental victory in regard to the image of its tourism industry at the international level.
This unprecedented event occurred at the World Economic Forum – 2022 (WEF), held in Davos, Switzerland, from May 23 to 26.
To justify an approach of such magnitude, I will rely on several elements, including the context of the event, statistical data, and a brief analysis.
In short, what is the WEF? This forum is a cross-section of the global public and private sector elite, bringing together the world’s foremost CEOs, diplomats, celebrities, media personalities, government officials, religious leaders and trade union representatives to shape to global, regional and industry agendas.
The WEF occurs in a delicate context. The theme of the conference “History at a turning point: government policies and business strategies” made it clear. Few times in its 51-year history has this forum focused as much attention as it does now.
The meeting was colored by the effects that the aggression against Ukraine has had in that country, in Europe, and the rest of the world, due to the high price of wheat and the price of a barrel of oil, which in May is quoted at 112 dollars, a increase of more than $40 from June 2021.
Also, the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on the global economy.
On the latter, the travel and tourism industry was severely affected, with 1.2 billion dollars in losses and more than 62 million jobs in 2020, according to Statista.
The sector is now at risk due to the war in Ukraine, since an economic slowdown in Europe as a collateral effect means, for us, a considerable decrease of hundreds of thousands of tourists.
Participation of the Dominican Republic
The participation of our country in Davos was led by the President of the Republic and Head of State Luis Abinader Corona, first as a panelist in the forum “Rethinking and revitalizing travel and tourism.”
On that panel were Keir Simmons, correspondent for NBC News; Antonio Capuano, executive director of Marriott International; Haifa Bint Mohammed Al Saud, Deputy Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia; S. Iswaran, Minister of Transport of Singapore and Ruzwana Bashir of Peek.com.
Simmons himself, in his introduction to the panel reflects and says: “globalization, remember that? When everything was going well, almost on autopilot, COVID came and the industry had to face that challenge… and just when the industry was getting up, the war in Europe came, with canceled air routes, and a potential economic storm in the future.
From a global point of view, the recovery of tourism has been uneven and this is where the Dominican Republic stands out for the results obtained.
President Abinader took office in August 2020, at a time when the tourism industry, which contributes more than 20% of GDP, 25% of foreign currency, and about 20% of employment, was almost paralyzed.
A month after assuming power, the president ordered the insurance for tourists called the RD Insurance Tourism Assistance Plan, to give confidence to those foreigners who visited a hotel or resort. This successful initiative, which had the support of the Banco de Reservas, was unprecedented and was a pioneer in the region,
According to the press release, this granted an “assistance plan with coverage for medical emergencies, including COVID-19, medications in assistance with hospitalization, emergency medical transportation, hotel expenses for hospitalization, expenses for flight change due to a medical emergency and legal assistance, among other coverages”, at no cost.
The measure had an almost immediate impact since between September and December of that year, more than 400,000 tourists visited us, a figure that exceeds most countries in the region.
Here it is worth highlighting the work of several key actors: Minister David Collado, who has made great efforts to promote the country in events held in Florida, Texas, New York, and other US states and in Spain.
Likewise, that of the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants -(ASONAHORES) the Dominican Association of Health Tourism, and the Ministry of Public Health, who in a single body together with other public and private institutions came together to work on the recovery and ensure faithful compliance with sanitary measures in each of the hotel facilities.
The strategies implemented were the reason for international organizations to present us as a benchmark for success in the recovery of tourism.
In this sense, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, stated in February 2021, after seeing the results of the assistance plan for tourists, that “the Dominican Republic is an example in the world of how it can be managed tourism with responsible protocols in the time of COVID-19, managing to attract international tourists with health security”.
And is not for less. Our country achieved the best month of April in history with more than 600 thousand tourists and May is shaping up in the same way.
The triumph of Dominican tourism
The 2022 World Economic Forum program had a total of 220 activities, including panels, forums, presentations, press conferences, among others, as you can see on its official page – https://es.weforum.org/events/world-economic -forum-annual-meeting-2022/
Reviewing one by one the themes of the 220 activities, only TWO of them had tourism or travel as their central theme, less than 1% of the total.
These two events, with the presence of Abinader, were the following: “Rethinking Rethinking and revitalizing travel and tourism”, which I already mentioned, and the press conference “Launch of the Travel and Tourism Development Index”.
Regarding the latter, our position in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index went from 20th to number 10 in terms of the priority of tourism development,
In terms of infrastructure and air transport, we improved to 41st place out of 117 countries, and in business environment to 63rd place.
If I have already put on the table only some of the enviable tourism recovery, travel insurance, UNWTO recognition, then where is the triumph of Dominican tourism?
1 – The Dominican Republic, represented by its president Luis Abinader, had the privilege of participating in the only two events where the theme was focused on travel and tourism.
2 – The name of the Dominican Republic was together with tourism giants such as Singapore and Saudi Arabia, which prior to the pandemic received 19 and 20 million tourists, respectively.
3 – President Luis Abinader was the only president who participated in the launch of the biannual report of the Travel and Tourism Development Index.
4- The very high attention of the forum in foreign waters served the president to strengthen our country brand before the world, for his command of the English language, because the American speaker highlighted the experience of our country, and also because the president already promoted Pedernales as a new tourist destination.
The triumph of Dominican tourism was achieved thanks to multiple factors, among which we can highlight the will of the hotel sector to vaccinate its employees; from the government for offering COVID insurance; of the Ministry of Tourism in its international promotion; for the management of the Health Cabinet and the Tourism Cabinet; for the key participation of ASONAHORES in ensuring that its membership complies with the protocols, and for the awareness of the majority of the Dominican population in getting vaccinated.
Thanks to the low numbers of positivity due to the virus, our country was an escape for millions of tourists who were looking forward to taking a well-deserved vacation after more than a year of confinement.
Our wisdom, common sense, mindset and the ability to agree on the Dominicans were the key for us to be that bright spot, in this part of the world, on management and recovery of tourism, both here and in the most important forum of international capitalism.
Author: Jairo Mateo – Journalist and Content Creator at dominicantravelpro.com