Dominican Republic expects record year in tourism

It’s the Caribbean’s top tourism destination

Bond defaults, jitters about a double-dip recession, 9.1% unemployment — all the unrelenting talk of the tattered global economy doesn’t seem to compare to the draw of a few days on a Caribbean beach.

The Dominican Republic is the Caribbean’s top tourism destination and expects record numbers of tourists this year and next. It’s on pace to receive nearly 5 million visitors in 2011, topping the record set last year.

The global economy is clearly having an effect on tourism, but the Dominican Republic is trending higher. It’s a growing and developing destination, said Scott Sperling, senior economist at Pennsylvania-based Tourism Economics, which forecasts travel patterns around the world.

Tourism Economics recently revised its global tourism forecast downward. While tourist travel will grow, it will only increase by 2.5 percent this year, Sperling said.

But economic struggles appear to be working in the Dominican Republic’s favor.

We are attracting the [U.S.] tourists who are not going to Europe because it’s far and more expensive, said the spokesman for the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, Humberto Ozoria.

Sperling said the total number of visitors to the country — arriving by airplane and cruise ship — is expected to increase by 4.7 percent this year and grow by a robust 5.7 percent in 2012.

Because of the economic situation, Americans that used to travel to long-haul destinations have shifted their preferences to traveling to closer destinations, the ministry said.

Motivated by a cheap hotel rate in an online advertisement, Maria Bruno, a waitress, caught a flight from northern New Jersey and was on a Dominican beach a few hours later.

It’s easy. You don’t have to plan much. You get here and it’s taken care of, said Bruno as she sifted through crafts and artwork at a gift shop in Santo Domingo, the capital. Even with the economy the way it is, you still want to get away, especially before the winter.

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