Dominican Republic leads tourism in Caribbean

Cruise ship passengers continue to flock to the island

With just more than 10 million people, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation after Cuba. However, the country is clear and away the regional leader when it comes to tourism. In 2012, more than 4.56 million tourists visited the country by air, a 5.9 percent increase over the year before. Of the total, just under 639,000 were non-resident Dominicans abroad.

Statistics released by the Central Bank show the effects of Hurricane Sandy on tourist arrivals as it shutted down regional airports throughout the Northeast and causing widespread damages to homes and businesses.

As a result tourism arrivals in the final quarter of 2012 came to 1.61 percent, compared to first-quarter growth of 7.88 percent, second-quarter growth of 7.38 percent and third-quarter growth of 6.51 percent. Even so, of the 256,175 additional tourists who came in 2012 compared to the year before, 181,737 of them were from the United States and 21,253 were from Canada.

The biggest gains, however, came from South Americans (46,328) — led by Venezuela, Chile, Peru and Colombia, in that order — and Russians (42,405). In addition, 6,647 more visitors flew in from Puerto Rico, just to the east, than in 2011.

At the other end of the spectrum was economically battered Europe, where travel was down sharply. The biggest drops were reported in travel from Great Britain (39,452), Spain (14,001) and Italy (10,055).

Of the Dominican Republic’s six international airports, one airport alone — Punta Cana — accounted for 2,406,709 passengers or 61.34 percent of all arrivals in 2012. Santo Domingo’s Las Américas was next, with 21.07 percent of the total, followed by Puerto Plata (8.96 percent), Santiago’s Cibao (4.21 percent), La Romana (2.69 percent) and Samaná (1.73 percent).

Nevertheless, American Airlines has announced that, effective April 2, it will cease direct flights from New York’s JFK to both Santiago and Santo Domingo. The airline, which has offered direct flights between the two countries for 37 years, said it would continue serving that market through its Miami hub.

Cruise ship passengers continue to flock to the Dominican Republic. In early February, Carnival Corp. and the Dominican shipping agency Baez & Rannik announced the launch of construction of the Puerto Plata tourism port at Maimon Bay. That project is expected to generate $65 million in investment by the local private sector.

Dominican Republic Live, from, 19.06.13, 4.30pm

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