For the DR is Chinese tourism a boom or myth?
Facelight for the Columbus Lighthouse Museum
Aeromexico begins PUJ-MEX direct flight
Restoring the trails leading up El Morro in Montecristi

For the DR is Chinese tourism a boom or myth?
On the occasion of the signing of relations with China, local authorities have consistently spoken about the 130 million Chinese travelers and how the DR now could grab a share of what is regarded as the world’s largest outbound travel market in terms of generated arrivals and total travel expenditure.

After the signing of full diplomatic relations, the Dominican Republic is now on the list of Chinese government approved destinations for Chinese tourists. This is a first step that was followed by the signing of the framework for an aviation agreement with the People's Republic of China. Tourism czar Frank Rainieri, part of the Dominican public-private mission to China in November 2018, said during his visit to Beijing that the country would cater to the middle class Chinese traveler. 44% of Chinese travelers in 2017 did so as part of a group.

Chinese tourists are big spenders. Every Chinese visitor spends about twice as much per day as the average non-Chinese tourist, which is part of the reason that every national tourism office is doubling down on its efforts to attract them. But one thing are the global numbers, and another the reality for the Dominican Republic. How Mexico and Cuba have done attracting the Chinese can create more realistic Dominican expectations.

For many years, Mexico has had full relations with China. The country has a dozen direct flight connections from China and is considerably closer than the Dominican Republic in travel. At the time, Mexico has several flights direct from China and a non-stop flight to a Latin American city, the Hainan Airline flight that connects Beijing and Mexico City.

But Mexico reports that of their 35 million tourist arrivals in 2016, the Chinese were nowhere even close to 1%. Only 74,000 Chinese traveled to Mexico in 2016, 51,687 stayed an average of eight days.

Interestingly, it is said that Chinese when traveling to the Americas are more into touring than passively taking sun in resorts. In Mexico, they have preferred to visit the history-full destinations such as Mexico City, Guanajuato province (Guanajuato, Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende), and the "magic towns" in the environs of Puebla, leaving only on average two days for leisure beach time at Mexico’s beaches.

Air China began service from Beijing to Havana with a three-hour layover in Montreal, Canada in 2015. Havana is the preferred tourism destination for the Chinese tourists. In 2017 Cuba received 40,000 Chinese tourists. There are expectations the numbers could increase to 60,000 this 2018.

Overall, of the around 130 million Chinese tourists that traveled abroad in 2017, less than 3% visited the Americas. In 2016, there were approximately 2.97 million visitors from China to the United States. This figure was forecasted to rise above 4.54 million in 2022. Figures from the National Travel and Tourism Office of the US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration agency estimate Chinese spending of the 3 million Chinese tourists that visit the US annually at over US$30 billion in recent years.

In 2017, the top 10 destinations for Chinese tourists were: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, USA and Italy.

China Travel News says that based on online bookings data, the 20 most popular destination countries for Chinese tourists in 2017 were: Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, the USA, South Korea, Maldives, Cambodia, Russia, the UAE, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Germany, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the UK.

Gambling is illegal in China and thus the novelty abroad is a big lure for Chinese tourists abroad. In 2017, Thailand was the most visited country abroad by Chinese tourists, receiving 9.8 million visitors. Japan was next with 7 million.

The challenge for the DR would be to become attractive enough to be a stop on a multi-destination trip to the Americas by the Chinese traveler. Already statistics show that 80% of Chinese tourists will visit more than one city during their trip abroad. The Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic is pursuing this approach. Cuba, Panama, Mexico and Brazil connections are possible. The country could take advantage that it is the best connected tourism destination in the Caribbean.

In 2004, China approved Spain as a destination for its citizens. The number of Chinese travelers has increased from 26,000 to 374,000 in 2016. In 2015, 12 million Chinese visited destinations in Europe.

The World Tourism Organization says that Chinese outbound tourism expenditures grew to US$261 billion in 2016, up 12% from 2015 and 11 times the amount spent 10 years ago. WTO says that only 9% of China’s population has a passport, compared to 40% in the United States.

Facelight for the Columbus Lighthouse Museum
The Columbus Lighthouse Museum has been renovated at a cost of more than RD$30 million. The museum reopens on 12 November on occasion of the hosting in Santo Domingo of the Special Olympics World Tennis Invitational Santo Domingo, coordinated by First Lady Candida Montilla. The museum is located next to the Mirador del Este Park sports installations where the tennis tournament is taking place. Delegates for Special Olympics from 35 countries are participating in events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics.

The lighthouse building has been renovated with new flooring and new lighting has been placed in all the garden areas. Access roads have been newly paved.

Faro a Colon manager Diogenes Gonzalez encourages visitation during the day and at night.

Aeromexico begins PUJ-MEX direct flight
Aeromexico began operations of the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) to Mexico International Airport (MEX) this Saturday, 10 November 2018. The airline also operates the Santo Domingo (SDQ) to Mexico (MEX) frequency since March 2016.

The Punta Cana flight will be twice a week. The airline is flying an Embraer 190 with capacity for 99 passengers, including 11 in Premier Class. The flight connects to 43 cities in Mexico and 46 international destinations.

Restoring the trails leading up El Morro in Montecristi
The United Nations Development Program is contributing to the reconstruction of the panoramic trails of the Parque Nacional El Morro in Montecristi. They are working in coordination with experts from the ministries of Environment and Tourism. The efforts are part of the Coastal Biodiversity and Tourism Project (BCyT) of the Ministry of Environment.

Environment Minister Ángel Estévez says safety rails are being built for the safety of visitors. Two viewpoints overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and two swings overlooking El Morro and Isla Cabra will be built for spectacular photo taking of the beautiful landscapes. An ecotourism platform is being added to be surrounded by mangroves and crystal clear water.

"Both attractions meet all the requirements of eco-friendly construction and seek to promote sustainable tourism development in the region through inclusive community tourism," said Estevez.

Estévez says the works will be a big boost for tourism development in Montecristi.

Luciana Mermet, deputy resident representative of UNDP, said that the Coastal Biodiversity and Tourism Project combines marine coastal conservation and preserving natural reserves.