Tourism is today the Dominican Republic's primary industry. The country offers a wide choice of accommodations at city, mountain and beach resorts and hotels. Palm-fringed beaches, adventure sports, casinos, year-round events and a rich history and culture, as well as its greatest asset - the hospitable Dominican people, make this country a prime vacation spot for Europeans, North Americans and Latin Americans. Tourism is concentrated in the coastal beach towns to the north, east, southeast, southwest and in the capital city of Santo Domingo. However, there has been an explosion of ecotourism in the interior of the country, with a multiplicity of excursions offering hiking, caving, biking through mountains and countryside.
In 2000, the country drew over 2.5 million foreign visitors and half a million visits from Dominican expatriates. With more than 54,000 rooms at 2001 year's end, the country has the largest hotel plant in the Caribbean. The pace of construction of hotel properties has been sustained over the years.
The tourism industry generated more than US$2,218 million in 2000, up 18.2% over the previous year according to the Central Bank. Tourism continues to be the major provider of hard currency to the economy. Total number of visitors grew 12% compared to 1999. Travel to the DR in 2001 has been affected by the latest world events, and industry experts say this could be the first year that the DR tourism sector does not post a healthy increase in travel.
According to the Central Bank, 2,972,552 visitors arrived by air in 2000, of which 2,459,586 were foreigners. The United States (648,802 or 27%) is the largest single nation source of visitors followed by Germany (462,900, or 19%), Canada (233,237, or 10%), Spain (158,657, 6.5%), Italy (133,853 or 5.5%), France 172,278, or 7%) and England (116,557 or 5%).
As of 2000 statistics from the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, the East Coast surpassed the North Coast as the area with most hotel rooms. By 2000, the Punta Cana-Bavaro-Macao-Uvero Alto beach strip had 18,274 rooms. The North Coast follows with an inventory of 16,124 hotel rooms. The North Coast includes the destinations of Puerto Plata, Sosúa, Cabarete, Costa Verde, Cofresí, Costambar, Luperón, among others.
The National District (Santo Domingo-Boca Chica) follows with 5,453 rooms. Next in importance is the beach area of Juan Dolio/Guayacanes, with 4,135 hotel rooms. Other important tourism destinations are located in the northeastern province of Samaná, with 1,825 rooms in Las Galeras, Las Terrenas and Samaná city. One of the newly developing areas, Costa Verde (Nagua, Cabrera and Río San Juan), on the north of the island, already had 1,886 rooms in 2000. In the central region of Cibao (La Vega and Santiago), there were 1,101 hotel rooms in 2000. La Romana offered 1,444 rooms. Other zones are Barahona in the Southwest had 480 rooms and Monte Cristi in the Northwest, had 100.