Santo Domingo seeks to host DATE 2018
Hard Rock Hotel Santo Domingo could still be built
Ferries del Caribe sails again from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo
Delta Vacations: Punta Cana is an outstanding product
JetBlue could fly to Europe

Santo Domingo seeks to host DATE 2018
The city of Santo Domingo could well host buyers and suppliers of the tourism industry for the 2018 Dominican Annual Travel Exchange (DATE). Roberto Henríquez, president of the Santo Domingo Association of Hotels (AHSD), when speaking during a press conference at DATE that was held in Punta Cana 3-5 May 2017, said that Santo Domingo hopes to be chosen as the host city by the National Association of Tourism & Hotels (Asonahores), the organizer of the event. 

Henriquez said the host venue would be the new Ministry of Foreign Relations Convention Center located on the Malecón or seaside drive in the city. There are many nearby hotels, including the Sheraton, Jaragua and Crowne Plaza Hotels that are on the Malecón, not far from the convention center. The Hotel Embajador is also a short distance away from the possible meeting site. 

Aside from showcasing new hotels in operation in the “metropolis of the Caribbean”, the organizers want to show off the renovated Colonial City of Santo Domingo, now more pedestrian friendly with wide sidewalks and 16th century buildings turned into cultural centers, hotels, restaurants and stores. The city also boasts the Polígono Central, the commercial and residential area of the city, with its many shopping, restaurants and hotel venues, including the new Embassy Suites, JW Marriot and InterContinental Real. 

The AHSD lists 27 first-class hotels with the opening of the new hotels. Meanwhile, older hotels such as the Sheraton, Jaragua Renaissance, Catalonia and others have carried out major renovations. 

The city is also a shopping mecca and regular host to leading artistic performers from all around the world, as well as having the largest collection of restaurants in a Caribbean city.

Henríquez highlighted that the occupancy rate of major hotels in the capital city has risen considerably. He attributes this to more meetings being held in the Santo Domingo. Henríquez would like Santo Domingo to become the country’s leading Meetings, Incentives and Convention and Events (MICE) destination, a position at present held by Punta Cana. 

The Santo Domingo hosting of DATE would coincide with the new creation of the city’s Convention Bureau, to be headed by Thelma Martínez, formerly director of marketing for Asonahores, and who for years has been responsible for the organization of DATE. 

As a warm-up for the 2018 DATE, AHSD is organizing Destino Capital, and as part of the event’s agenda will include the MITM Americas International Fair, from 14-17 November 2017 at the El Embajador Royal Hideaway Hotel. 

“Santo Domingo is in its best moment and we want to take advantage of this,” Henríquez speaking during the DATE press conference.

Hard Rock Hotel Santo Domingo could still be built
Roberto Henríquez, president of the Santo Domingo Hotels Association, said that the Hard Rock Hotel Santo Domingo could still be built in the Polígono Central. Speaking at the DATE 2017 conference in Punta Cana, Henríquez said the project fell through because the promoters did not meet the zoning regulations that exist and existed at the time the project was conceived. 

Henríquez observed, nevertheless: “If they adapted the project to the zoning regulations the project could continue, but it is an administrative decision they will have to take,” he said. 

The builders had already begun to excavate the property to build the underground parking at the Av. Abraham Lincoln and Calle José Andrés Aybar location. Nevertheless, residents objected the casino and the lack of sufficient parking, in addition to the added floors. This resulted in the hotel never receiving its social permit from the Ministry of Environment. Subsequently, the city government under a new major revoked the city construction permit that it had granted under the previous administration despite the zoning violations.

Ferries del Caribe sails again from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo
Ferries del Caribe restarted its San Juan-Santo Domingo sea service on Wednesday, 3 May 2017. The ferry docks at the Puerta Don Diego facility in the Port of Santo Domingo, in the Colonial City. The ship departs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Santo Domingo at 7 pm and arrives in San Juan, Puerto Rico early in the morning of the next day. 

Ferries del Caribe is now using the Japanese-built 8-floor Kydon, that previously sailed on cruises with Anek Lines, the leading Greek ferry operator. The ship has capacity for 1,750 passengers and 111 crew, with its 175 rooms and 163 pre-numbered seats. It can transport 70 vehicles per trip, and 1,669 lineal meters of freight containers. 

The ferry is advertising introductory fares for transport only and with hotel packages, too. 

Delta Vacations: Punta Cana is an outstanding product
The Dominican Republic is the leading destination in bookings for Delta Vacations in 2016, following a banner year, announced Karen Kammer, director product development. 

Delta Vacations markets vacation packages on Delta Air Lines from Atlanta (ATL) and New York (JFK) to Punta Cana International (PUJ). Kammer announced a 6% increase in traffic from JFK International Airport, for both Delta Vacations and air only bookings. In 2016, the airline added Boston to Punta Cana and “is very happy with the results of that new flight”.

Recently, Delta has increased its air capacity into Punta Cana by 6% with more flights out of Atlanta, New York (JFK), Detroit and Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Kammer said 2016 was a terrific year for the company. “It was our best year ever for the Caribbean,” she announced. “We are happy to say we are well ahead of all the other destinations in the Caribbean in 2017,” she said speaking about the Punta Cana destination. 

She said the adults-only segment introduced by many Punta Cana resorts is the newest trend contributing to the 50% growth year over year for Dominican vacations. “We have made a huge effort in 2016 at enhancing our romance product for travel agents and consumers,” she said. She explained that most of their business is still coming from travel agents. 

Calling Punta Cana “an outstanding product,” she commented on the many new resorts opening year after year in Punta Cana that provide the company a fresh sales angle, year after year. “We are very much focused on new hotels in the destination,” she explained praising the positive dynamics of the destination. 
Kammer also attributed growth in business to the addition of many recognizable brands for US travelers and the branded products that are bringing great consumer focus to the destination. But behind the numbers is good value. “The quality of product is extremely high, and a good value for consumers.” 

JetBlue could fly to Europe
Speaking at the DATE conference in the Dominican Republic, Elizabeth Ninomiya, JetBlue corporate communications manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the airline is studying the European market. She said travelers could then benefit from the lower fares and high quality service of the airline. She explained that the airline looks to enter into underserved markets where fares are too high. 

The Dominican Republic would stand to gain enormously with a JetBlue European connection. The airline already operates out of five Dominican airports – Santo Domingo (SDQ), Punta Cana (PUJ), La Romana (LRM), Santiago (STI) and Puerto Plata (POP). 

In its 12 years of flying to the Dominican Republic, JetBlue has 20 to 35 local daily departures to the United States and Puerto Rico, depending on the season, transporting around 2.5 million passengers a year. Ninomiya said that the Dominican destination continues to grow, as the interest in US travelers is increasing. 

JetBlue offers 16 Dominican routes. These are: five flights a day from Santo Domingo (JFK, BOS, FLL, MOC and SJU); four flights from Santiago (JFK, EWR, BOS, SJU); four flights from Punta Cana (JFK, BOS, FLL and SJU); two flights from Puerto Plata (JFK, BOS) and one flight from La Romana (JFK).