The president of the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (Asonahores), David Llibre, estimated this Sunday that hotel occupancy in the country is at 80%, and predicted that this year could reach 10 million foreign visitors when the number of tourists arriving by air is added to the number of cruise ship passengers.
Interviewed by Héctor Herrera Cabral in the program “D’Agenda”, Llibre explained that this year the arrival of tourists exceeded 2019, a pre-pandemic year, and the same behavior if compared to 2022, which in itself was an important year because it meant the start, after the coronavirus pandemic, and in this 2023 it is a normal year of complete growth.
Also, he said that it has been possible to observe this increase month after month, not only of passengers or tourists arriving by air, but also of cruise passengers, because there has been an important impulse in the arrival of cruise ships.
The business leader said that it is expected to reach 7.9 million air tourism arrivals this year, and two million cruise passengers.
He added that, based on these data, if both figures are added together, they will reach the famous 10 million, which the country set as a goal in a period of ten years, that is to say, it is in line with these expectations.
“And, it is possible to highlight that these results have been achieved thanks to the work that has been done by the private sector and the government institutions that work in the industry,” he said.
He gave as an example of the coordination between the public and private sectors, the decision of the current authorities to include representatives of Asonahores, and of the different airports, in the Marketing Committee of the Ministry of Tourism which is where it is decided in a consensual manner where each dollar that the State contributes for the promotion of the country as a tourist destination is invested.
“The average is around 80%, when we see destinations with higher occupancy such as the province of La Altagracia in the eastern part of the country and, on the other hand, we have the tourist center of Puerto Plata which, unfortunately, has a much lower occupancy rate, then we get that average which varies from month to month, but accumulated is approaching that rate, and in the case of La Romana we have Bayahibe which always has a very good hotel occupancy,” said David Llibre.
He indicated that the institution he presides is focused on the airline industry, because the Dominican Republic is an island, and the only way to grow is if the number of air seats is increased, more routes, and in such virtue the creation of local airlines and routes that are generated from the country has been encouraged, with the purpose of increasing the offer to lower the prices of tickets.
“So, that is the idea, to inject as many flights and seats to the destinations where we need them so that they start to lower costs, because, definitely, one of the challenges we have in the sector is the high price of air tickets to the Dominican Republic,” acknowledged the tourism entrepreneur.
He gave as an example that a person who wants to come to vacation in the country, and a Dominican who wants to travel abroad, from the moment he buys the ticket is already spending a lot of money without having started his vacation.
Llibre said that currently 50% of the tourists coming to the country, (four million visitors) enter through the Punta Cana Airport, and in the opposite direction happens with the Gregorio Luperon Airport in Puerto Plata which has had a considerable drop of flights for not having a sufficient number of rooms as there are in the East Zone.
He said that the increase in hotel occupancy, and the increase in costs has not been compensated with an increase in the rates charged by the hotels, and that has resulted in a decrease in profitability, however, the industry is on the right track, and in that sense they can not complain.
Llibre qualifies as a myth to say that the tourist industry does not pay taxes although he recognizes fiscal incentives.
The president of the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic qualifies as a myth the versions that say that the industry does not pay taxes, although he recognizes that it has certain tax incentives.
“It is a myth, because when we look at the subject, while it is true that hotels have tax incentives for their construction and their performance during the first years, it is no less true that every time a tourist arrives and stays in a hotel, he pays taxes, the Itbis of that occupation is paid, and not only that, but every purchase he makes pays that taxation,” Llibre explained.
He said that, “We see that 90% of the food consumption served in hotels comes from local production, and we saw that in the pandemic, because when the hotels closed a large number of producers had nowhere to place their products, and suddenly we saw a mega supply from seafood, meat, vegetables. Among others, because the hotels were not consuming them and they were going to be damaged”.
“Then, the great consumer that is the tourism industry, also brings the issue of the contribution that we give at the fiscal level in that sense,” insisted the president of Asonahores.
With respect to the quality of salaries, the business leader recalled that, “we recently went through a salary increase of 20%, which was applied 15% immediately arranged by the authorities of the Ministry of Labor, and the remaining 5% will be applied the month of February of next year.”
“And, that was also applied last year, that is to say, that in the last two years the salary in the tourism sector has been increased by almost 40 %, and the salaries of the collaborators have a double component, because we cannot forget that in the industry it is normal that the employees have lunch there, since outside the hotels there is nowhere to go to eat, and also a transportation issue because most of them do not live close to their place of work”, he clarified.
He added that they are also provided with uniforms, and a large number of components, such as the fact that some employees who do not have transportation are offered lodging, which is why, when analyzing the salary issue, all these aspects must be taken into account.
“And we also have to take into account the factor of tips, which increases their salary level, even above any other sector, and if there has been any situation in the past, we can assure that in our management the tips are distributed among our collaborators”, he said.
He qualifies as a difficult and long term start for the development of tourism in Pedernales, but he assures that we are on the right path.
David Llibre described the tourist development of Pedernales as a difficult and long term beginning, but assured that it is on the right path.
“Definitely I believe that things are being done as they should be done, the destination is being created, and to create the destination it is necessary to create everything, not only the hotels, but the airport, the access roads, and all that is involved in creating this destination, which will be a difficult few years at the beginning, yes, it is a long-term project, yes, this is not, simply, we will build the hotel and tomorrow it will be full, no, that is important to make it clear”, he said.
However, he clarified that “we are on the right track”, and recalled that in tourism we must think in the long term, and a parallel can be established with the beginning of the tourist pole of Puerto Plata, which received a boost from the Central Bank through Infratur, with the difference that this time there are incentive laws that did not exist at that time and did not allow to improve the existing rooms.
Regarding the support of the private sector to the tourist development of Pedernales, the president of Asonahores says that they are already doing so, and gave as an example that the two hotels that are being built will be operated by two recognized hotel chains of worldwide prestige.
“Well there are already two hotels being built, and there are two chains that will operate those hotels, that is to say, if it has been demonstrated that the private sector is interested in developing this tourist pole”, emphasized David Llibre when asked about the involvement of the private sector in the development of Pedernales.
On the subject of Sargasso, the president of Asonahores said that a hotel spends, on average, U$70,000 a year for the cleaning and management of this marine algae.