Dominican tourism has always been sustained by the arrival of U.S. visitors, but last year, both U.S. residents and non-resident Creoles practically saved that sector.
According to official statistics, over the past decade, from 2010 to 2019, not including pandemic years, the average annual tourist arrivals stood at 5,358,640, of which Dominicans accounted for 14.2% (761,194), while Americans averaged 1,776,992 for 33.1% of total tourists and 38.6% of total foreign visitors (4,597,446).
However, during the past 2021, from recovery to pandemic, total tourist arrivals stood at 4,994,309. Of that number, Dominicans accounted for 26.8% (1,339,092) almost double the annual average of the previous decade, while Americans accounted for 1,655,324 for 33.1% of total tourists and 45.3% of total foreign visitors (3,655,217).
The above indicates that while Americans remained in 2021 with the same relative share of total visitors in the last decade before the pandemic (33.1), when non-resident Dominicans are removed, their share goes from an average of 38.6% to a 45.3% weighting.
In the case of Dominicans it is much more significant, as last year they came practically twice as many as they did each year on average in the decade from 2010 to 2019.
2020 was difficult
As for 2020, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, tourist arrivals to the country totaled 2,405,315, a drop of -55.1% compared to the annual average of the previous decade. The drop was not greater, also due to the support of non-resident Dominicans, who represented 29.3% of total visits (706,121), while Americans presented a weight of 25.4% with 612,433 visitors.
The weight of U.S. visitors compared to foreign arrivals (1,699,194), excluding non-resident Dominicans, was 36%.
Although the Dominican Republic is an attraction for potential tourists from different parts of the world, Americans have an important weight, since they represent on average close to 40% of the foreign visitors that visit the country, which translates into a third of the total number of tourists, when non-resident Dominicans are included.
More foreigners are missing
The arrival of non-resident Dominicans during the past year 2021 was historic with 1,339,092. Precisely in 2019, prior to the pandemic, it was the first year in which the number of Dominicans who came as tourists exceeded one million with 1,088,417.
If this trend continues, it is evident that in order to reach the levels of visits of the years prior to the pandemic, it is necessary that more foreigners come. In fact, from 2016 to 2019 more than five million foreign tourists were arriving in the country each year, a situation that changed with the pandemic.
In that same period, including 2015, U.S. visitors exceeded two million year after year up to and including 2019.
One of the markets to recover is Canada, which is one of the nations with more restrictive measures to protect itself from Covid-19 and other variants, so that last year, only 123,861 visitors came from that nation, when in the pre-pandemic years they exceeded 750,000 travelers.
It also requires the recovery of tourists from European nations, from where more than 1,300,000 visitors came each year before the pandemic, while in 2021, in the process of recovery was reduced by almost half with the reception of 873,901 visits. The Government, through the Ministry of Tourism, has developed a strategy of promotion and active management with tour operators and airline representatives, in order to attract more and more visitors and foreign investment in this economic sector.
The “open door” policy has resulted in several airline announcements with the opening of routes to the airports where the main tourist centers of the country are located, as in the case of Punta Cana, in the Altagracia province and the Gregorio Luperon terminal in Puerto Plata. To this is added the development of other potential destinations, such as Pedernales.
January got off to a good start
The Minister of Tourism, David Collado, informed that in January of this year the arrival of visitors totaled 530,956, with the advantage that only 18% were non-resident Dominicans and 82% were foreigners.
While that number is 158% higher than the 205,311 tourists who came in January 2021, it is below the 557,231 who visited the country in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic began, as well as the 598,198 visitors in the same month of 2019, and is lower than that of the previous two years.
Tourism projections are to achieve this year the arrival of at least seven million foreign visitors and non-resident Dominicans. If this goal is achieved, it would be a record-breaking year, since such a large number of tourists have never arrived in the country. The maximum amount was 6,568,888 registered in 2018.
Since 2012, the Government set out to reach in a decade the arrival of 10 million tourists per year. Ten years have passed and the goal, which was not going to be achieved anyway, although annual growth was steady, was severely constrained with the pandemic during 2020 and part of 2021. This year it is expected to gradually return to relative normality.