With the tourist season in full swing, the travel industry is gearing up for a busy year in international travel. The country saw a whopping 1,71 million non-resident tourists in the first trimester of the year, the highest recorded number of international travelers since the pandemic started. With these numbers in mind, the Dominican Republic is well on its way to achieving its pre-pandemic situation, firmly positioning it as one of the most popular destinations in the region. David Collado, the country’s tourism minister, says it’s likely that the Dominican Republic will exceed pre-pandemic arrivals this year.
Compared to the same month last year, this March saw a 197% increase in international arrivals, with more than 617,000 tourists stepping foot in the country. Of these, the overwhelming majority – around 70% – came from North America. In reviewing the current situation, the minister for tourism noted “I can say today and with certainty that tourism in the Dominican Republic has fully recovered and that it is strong and doing well”. Airlines, too, are feeling optimistic. With over 5000 flights to national airports in March alone, the Dominican Republic offers excellent connections to various destinations across North and South America.
Hotels across the country are beginning to report their occupancy rates for the Easter period, indicating a strong recovery. In northern parts of the country such as Puerto Plata or Sosúa, some visitors have found it has been nearly impossible to book rooms for the period as a result of increased demand. At the same time, new resorts are opening up across the country, many of which are focusing on sustainable travel. Other accommodation categories are also doing well, especially private apartment rentals.
For Roberto Casoni and Joel Santos, the busy Easter period has been a breath of fresh air compared to previous months. With the economy back on track to make a full recovery, officials are having a hard time keeping track of occupancy rates due to the amount of informal housing. COVID has affected the various long-term trends in tourism accommodation, pushing people to seek smaller family rentals, allowing for greater flexibility and control. According to Santos, this type of arrangement is expected to increase in the coming months.
Punta Cana Airport To Invest $80 Million For Expansion
Hotels aren’t the only services dealing with the greater demand for international travel. Punta Cana Airport announced in late February that it would invest $80 million to accommodate increasing passenger numbers, especially from the USA. The new Terminal B is expected to handle up to 3 million additional passengers. This much-welcomed addition will improve connectivity, passenger comfort, and boost demand for hotels and other services.
Set to open in November this year, the expansion is part of a larger $280 million logistics upgrade in the region. With up to 260,000 square feet in new facilities, the upgrade is a significant step for Punta Cana and the Altragracia region. In addition to handling more passengers, the airport will also serve as a logistics center. This is great news for the local economy, which can expect greater employment levels thanks to the increased flow of goods and services.
The new terminal will be especially useful for travelers coming from and going to the U.S. It will house a Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance service, allowing inbound passengers to speed up travel formalities. The Dominican Republic is currently the fourth Caribbean destination to offer such clearance, a testament to the strong U.S demand for travel to that country.
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