Why the Dominican Republic is so popular

By | Category: Travel destinations
Punta Cana: how many might view the Dominican Republic for the first time

Punta Cana: how many might view the Dominican Republic for the first time

The Dominican Republic has always been a popular Caribbean destination for Britons and Irish visitors but in the last few years, interest has outstripped the average figures as calculated by the WTO – World Tourism Organization. It has received 50% more visitors than the average Caribbean destination.

Why? What is it that the tourist authority and the country has been doing that has attracted more of us (5.5 million in 2015) to visit the country? This year it will probably exceed six million visitors, an increase that is going to be way ahead of the WTO average forecasted growth. That is virtually the same number that the much, much larger Brazil receives in a non-Olympic Games year.

Firstly, the country has been building more hotel rooms so growth can occur. Currently it has just over 70,000 rooms; by 2019 there will be another 18,000 in 55 new developments. But hotel rooms mean nothing if you can’t fill them. They range from budget to luxury accommodation so singles, couples, families and groups have a wide range of choice including all-inclusive resorts. The Dominican Republic achieved 75.5% occupancy across all its hotels last year, a figure that is growing and would be envied by many countries. In the Caribbean as a whole in 2015, it stood at 68.8%.

Secondly the country plans to remove the need to obtain a visa to travel there making life so much easier for potential visitors. At present UK and Irish citizens pay a £10 fee for a tourist card which allows entry. You can order it online or get it at the airport on arrival.

modern art in the Dominican Republic - Rahdames Majia,'s "Signos Aldredos" shown in London in 2014

modern art in the Dominican Republic – Rahdames Majia,’s “Signos Alrededor” shown in London in 2014

Last October a new cruise terminal opened at Amber Cove I, Puerto Plata (the most popular tourist area) meaning cruise companies found it a more attractive port-of-call than some other Caribbean places. Another development at Cap Cana means that the country may feature twice in some cruise itineraries in the future.

Puerto Plata contains more than 12,500 rooms and is famous for its world-class water sport offerings, with its town of Cabarete known as the Kite Boarding Capital of the World. The beaches might attract the visitors initially but no tourist destination can rely on one product. Here you can also enjoy hiking, canyoning and rappelling, complemented by mountain biking and white-water rafting .Now the area is promoting its ecotourism options to new audiences, phasing out its “Smile You’re in Puerto Plata” campaign in favour of one promoting the area’s natural attractions.

In the same region, the Dominican Republic has been emphasising its attraction to golfers, one of the highest spending groups of visitors. There are eighteen world-class golf courses built by some of the most well-known golfing names like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Nick Price and Robert Trent Jones. In 2014, there were 140,000 golf tourists visiting those courses.

Three British airlines have direct air links with the country making it appealing for British holidaymakers and the main airport, Punta Cana is the largest international airport in the Caribbean in terms of passenger numbers.

But once you get to the Dominican Republic, the infrastructure for tourists to get around has not been forgotten either. More than 8,000 kilometres of roads have been created or expanded within the past three years and all major tourist areas are now connected and most are accessible within a two-hour drive. That means that a visitor can see most of the country get anywhere and experience the difference of holiday offerings be it beach, mountains, reserves, wildlife, activities or shopping easily and combine things in the one day.humpback-whale-samana-bay-dominican-republic-220px

Of course, the thousand mile coastline is the biggest attraction for many but it has a wide range of attractions so virtually any type of holidaymaker (OK, not those addicted to snow sports) are catered for.  There are 618 square miles of caves, mangroves and islets in the Los Haitises National Park, you can watch dolphins and also view the thousands of humpback whales wintering in the Samaná Bay, and spend a refreshing time in the pool of the Salto el Limón waterfall. Then there are the manatees. These cows of the sea can be seen in large numbers at the Marine Mammal Sanctuary in Estero Hondo which, although about wety square miles in size is shallow with  a sea grass  bottomand little historical human interference.

If you prefer bird-watching to manatee gazing then you only have 300 plus varieties to mark-off in your notebook and that includes 31 that you won’t see anywhere else in the world such as the Bay-Breasted Cuckoo, West Indian Whistling Duck and the Hispaniolan Woodpecker, That’s not strictly true because the island on which the Dominican Republic sits is Hispaniola and is shared with Haiti so many of the  breeds are to be found in both countries.

Pnta Espada Golf Club in Punta Cana

Pnta Espada Golf Club in Punta Cana

Of all the international visitors that arrive in the country, the Eastern National Park, specifically Saona Island, received 49% of all visitors, one of the protected areas. In total, 641,503 (visited the off-shore island, followed by the Three Eyes Cave in Santo Domingo (160,077), an important habitat for local wildlife. In all, the Dominican Republic currently features 119 protected areas, covering a total area of 25,472 square kilometres.  Situated on the outskirts of of Santo Domingo the Three Eyes Caves feature four sulphur-water underwater natural pools. Three of the natural pools are situated in a large ancient cavern.

For another tourist variation you could explore the capital, Santo Domingo, which is an old colonial city that celebrates its 520th founding this year. It even has cobbled streets in the old part as well as ruins and restored buildings that hark back to the days of Spanish rule. Today, the colonial part of this million peopled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Parque Nacional Los Haitises

Parque Nacional Los Haitises

As with all capital cities, there is a wide range of cuisines available to the visitor and, as you might expect given its location, there is an emphasis on seafood in many restaurants. Santa Domingo claims to have more restaurants than any other city in the Caribbean so you should find almost any cuisine you wish. With Americans forming the largest group of visitors, American food is available everywhere but you’re no traveller unless you sample the intricate mix that makes up the local cuisine. Bandera is perhaps the most well-known dish consisting of  white rice, stewed beans and either chicken or beef. You could start though with a typical breakfast of mashed green plantains, eggs, fried salami and fried cheese.

You might well ask what the Dominican Republic cannot offer the visitor. As I said, apart from snow sports.most visitors would be pretty happy with what they will find. And that could be the reason for the country’s success. People keep coming back.

For more about the Dominican Republic, click here.

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