The 15th Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange Meets in Punta Cana



This year’s Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (D.A.T.E.) was held from March 26th through the 28th at the luxurious, all-inclusive Paradisus Palma Real Resort and Convention Center’s new, 42,000 square-foot convention facility in the Caribbean’s most popular vacation destination, Punta Cana.

It is the Dominican Republic’s most important tourism business event and its 15th session. Organized by the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES), the major private association of tourism activities in the island nation, it is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic.

For three days, tour operators and travel agents met with marketing and sales staffs at the booths of hotels, resorts, inns, attractions and car rental agencies in 20-minute, pre-arranged, one-on-one business sessions.

More than 2.5 million visitors a year vacation on the palm-fringed, sunny shores of Punta Cana, with an incredible 10,000 people a day during the winter season taking tours with 56 tour operators.

This powerhouse of tourism business activity frequently starts in the business and social meetings at D.A.T.E.

Robert Petris, VIK; Megan Velez, Cheapcaribbean; Beat Haeberling, VIK. Credit: D. O. Christian Rieger

Exceeded Expectations

With continuous tourism growth in the Dominican Republic, it is not surprising that this trade event had the largest number of meetings in its history. Luis Emilio Rodríguez Amiama, President of ASONAHORES said, “This edition of DATE exceeded the expectations of the organizers and exhibitors, making it the most successful event since its founding with 4,626 meetings this year as contrasted to last year’s 3,510.”

There were 255 buyer delegates representing 153 buyer companies from the United States, Canada and Europe who met with 532 delegates of 130 supplier companies.

I call Punta Cana the vacation powerhouse of the Caribbean. It is, quite frankly, what all the rest of the West Indies has to compete against—probably the toughest brains and marketing organizations in the tropical New World.

In the keynote speech to inaugurate the 15th DATE, Francisco Javier García, the Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, predicted “an 8% growth in tourist arrivals for 2014 resulting from the government’s promotion of the country in key markets, and strong support from president Danilo Medina.”

Getting There and Getting Around

JetBlue,” says Jessica Banchs, manager of its international sales, “has been coming to DATE since 2010. Our commitment to the market has helped us grow in the Dominican Republic. We now service 6 international airports here and offer 41 to 45 flights a week during peak season and 34 to 41 flights a week during the troughs.” These include the new flight on May 1st from Newark airport to Santiago in the agricultural and industrial hub of the country and the eight flights a day from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The airline has more flights to more destinations in the Dominican Republic than any other airline and caries approximately two million passengers a year. “We are always looking for opportunities to expand our network,” she adds, “and look forward to continuing to serve such an incredible island filled with endless potentials as one of the most desired vacation destinations in the Caribbean.”

Getting around the resorts is now easier than ever and more fun for the handicapped and for people who tire after a lot of walking, which is sometimes necessary in the new, very large, all-inclusive resorts of the Dominican Republic.

Since early 2013, ScootersDR has been renting individual, three and four-wheeled, electric carts, manufactured by Pride Mobility, delivered to resorts that are fully prepared and suited for the limited-mobility traveler in Bavaro, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata and La Romana. This year, it will provide the “Beach Chair,” a personal vehicle with which the rider can go in the water. Can you imagine! Daily rates range from $50 to $70 and weekly from $294 to $350 depending on the model.

The swing-up bar, next to the pool and beach, enjoyed by children and adults at the Royalton Punta Cana Resort & Casino, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Credit: D. O. Christian Rieger

The All-inclusives Mature

New on the Punta Cana beach at this DATE was the Royalton Punta Cana and Memories Splash, owned and operated by the Sunwing Group as part of BlueDiamond Hotels and Resorts.

The first has 485 rooms and is primarily for adults. It has seven categories of rooms from luxury to the oceanside, a luxury, one bedroom, presidential suite. Summer rates, from May 1 through August 18, range from $184 ppdo to $301 ppdo. The second has 525 rooms from deluxe to a presidential suite with Jacuzzi, ranging in price from $155 ppdo to $201 ppdo for the summer season.

Memories Splash is created for children. With seven water slides, it has the most of any resort in the Caribbean.

Both resorts have lobby-to-beach WiFi and the BlueDiamond, trademarked, special mattresses for superior sleeping comfort.

The Punta-Cana, all-inclusive 4 star VIK Hotel Arena Blanca with 447 rooms and the 5 star VIK Cayena Beach with 47 rooms are small by the standard of most Dominican east-coast resorts. It is this factor that gives these two resorts their appeal.

Robert Petris, Commercial Director, North & South America, VIK Hotels Group says, “We are the one of the smallest and most “boutique” properties among the mega resorts and therefore our attraction lies particularly in that fact and in our preferred location.

From L to R: Antonio Herrera, Commercial Director, BlueDiamond Hotels & Resorts; Jeff Malamut, President, World Wide Vacations; Todd Kirlik, Director, Sales & Marketing, BlueDiamond Hotels & Resorts; Delia Osegueda, National Sales Manager, North America, BlueDiamond Hotels & Resorts. Credit: D. O. Christian Rieger

“Being a smaller resort, we provide cozier and more charming atmosphere.”

Arena Blanca summer rack rates range from $136 to $236 double occupancy. The Cayena Beach rack rates range from $308 to $322 for its ocean side suites, double occupancy.

Mini Markets

Despite efforts to the contrary, the Ministry of Tourism cannot satisfy the marketing needs of some of the lesser-known regions of the country and some of the hotel categories. Consequently, there are additional associations to market tourism products. One of which is the Puerto Plata Cluster.

Roberto Casoni, who is president of the Playa Dorada Hotel Association, a member of the Puerto Plata Cluster says, “The clusters were born in different areas of the country to put together the tourism actors and coordinate actions. The Puerto Plata cluster is trying to be the perfect host organizing the Discover Puerto Plata Trade show and creating new ways to explore our region.

“More than making a marketing campaign the idea is help to our region grow by working together instead of individually and to create a tourist culture among the people in our destination. Of course, we are working together and cooperate with the Ministry of Tourism that is doing a big effort to promote the lesser known regions of the country.”

Those regions, which have associations where travel agents can get information, perhaps more up-to-date and more detailed than from the Ministry of Tourism, are:  Asociación de Hoteles la Romana-Byahibe, www.explorelaromana.com; Asociación de Hoteles y Proyectos Turisticos del Este, www.puntacanabavarohotels.com; Asociación de Hoteles y Restaurnates de Sosúa y Cabarete, ashoresoca@codetel.net.do and Asociación de Hoteles y Restaurantes de las Terrenas, hoteldelpaseo@gmail.com. Not regional, but rather by category, is the Small Luxury Hotels of the Dominican Republic, evalcarce@prohotels.com.

DATE, www.asonahores.com, www.drdate.net