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The Dominican Republic's Growth Spurt

The Caribbean island readies itself to attract 10 million visitors a year with new flights, resorts, and tours

The malecon-front, 225-room Melia Santo Domingo is undergoing a $6 million renovation that should be complete by the year\’s end.
After spending years forming strategic partnerships in the tourism industry, the Dominican Republic is primed and ready for travelers searching for the ideal Caribbean destination.

Getting to the D.R. has become easier thanks to two new JetBlue flights into Santiago and Punta Cana from San Juan – the airline’s hub for the Caribbean region. Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, an award-winning tour operator, has expanded into Punta Cana, Samana, and La Romana, and the reputable Gray Line has also begun offering tours and airport transportation in the D.R.

MLT Vacations are investing in Samana’s potential as a northern coast hotspot (it’s also home to a humpback whale sanctuary) with three new adult-only, all-inclusive Bahia Principe resorts there. Seeing an eight-fold growth in three years at their 38 Punta Cana properties clinched their decision to grow into the up-and-coming area.

Despite the 2008 economic crisis, tourism in the D.R. is climbing steadily with a nearly 5% growth rate from 2011 to 2012 when 6 million tourists visited the island. A 2013 marketing budget of $13.3 million is being used towards its goal of attracting 10 million visitors per year by 2023. Most visitors come from the U.S., but Russia represents a burgeoning market that the D.R. will include in its reach. A current $2.5 million marketing priority is to reposition Puerto Plata in the limelight that Punta Cana has been monopolizing as of late.

New accommodations further enticing visitors to Punta Cana include the 400-room, beachfront Westin Puntacana (complete with a cigar bar), the 470-room Royalton Punta Cana Resort & Casino, and the 525-room Memories Splash Punta Cana. The latter two sit adjacent and are both all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts owned by Blue Diamond; however, Memories ups the ante with a wave pool, waterslides, and a variety of other pools. Opt for the stay at one, play at two package, and enjoy the best of both.

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