Tourist hotspot

Dominican Republic’s foreign visitors exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Is Covid really behind us? Well, if the number of tourist arrivals into the Dominican Republic is any form of indicator, the answer is a resounding yes! Tourists have flocked to the island over the summer from the US, Canada, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba, and the even the UK.

The country’s exceptional air connectivity, easy entry rules, and new tourism industry projects have consolidated and expanded the island’s arrivals figures. In June, the country’s foreign visitor numbers surpassed pre-pandemic levels, reaching 645,000 tourists, a 9.8% increase compared to June 2019. If that wasn’t enough, the next month marked a record number of foreign visitors registered on the island: 735,000.

A senior tourism consultant in the Dominican Republic highlighted the importance of tourism to the island, “Our economy relies on tourism and we really enjoy having visitors. As such, we also invest a lot in tourism-related education, for example, the Punta Cana Group, they have founded a hospitality school, they do internships and learn languages and then go to the hotels and start working.”

“Our economy relies on tourism and we really enjoy having visitors. As such, we also invest a lot in tourism …”

Senior tourism consultant, Dominican Republic

If this rate of growth continues, the island is expected to exceed its record of seven million tourists in a single calendar year. The president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, said that the resurgence of the industry has been key to the country’s economic recovery, considering that it accounts for more than 20% of its GDP. He emphasised that the UN World Tourism Organisation (“UNWTO”) recognised the Dominican Republic as the number one country in the world for its post-pandemic recovery of tourism.

Not content with only the world’s fastest recovery of tourism, the Dominican Republic is also working with the national Export and Investment Centre (“PRODOMINACANA”) and the UNWTO to promote investment in sustainable tourism. The ambition is to attract foreign direct investments to provide local jobs and a consolidate a tourism business model focused on innovation and sustainability.

The country’s government believes that the cooperation between public and private sectors in innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and new destinations was key to the recovery. David Collado, Minister of Tourism, added that the main objective of the government is to make sure that the profits generated by the tourism industry have a long-lasting and positive impact on the local population’s social and economic welfare.

With such initiatives, it is easy to understand why investors are seeking opportunities in the Dominican Republic. One major pull has been the Foreign Investment Law which was designed to create a receptive environment for foreign investments explained a tourism strategist, “The foreign investment law is crucial. It allows companies to setup in the Dominican Republic and then pay no tax on their earnings! Unfortunately, it doesn’t help solve the country’s social problems.”

“The foreign investment law is crucial. It allows companies to setup in the Dominican Republic and then pay no tax on their earnings! Unfortunately, it doesn’t help solve the country’s social problems.”

Tourism strategist, Dominican Republic

The UNWTO reported that, between 2016 and 2020, the Dominican Republic attracted USD 5.7 billion in 26 greenfield investment tourist projects. The government’s restructuring of free trade zones, the incentives for tourism and the signing of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement are considered key to the current tourism boom.

It’s not all perfect though, as a hotel executive commented, “When wealthy tourists come to visit it is easy for them to forget that the Dominican Republic is still a developing country. Crime and corruption are very real problems and there are significant investments being made to implement better security in touristic areas. We also have social problems, especially related to the hospitals and schools.”

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