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26th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition
12–14 March 2019 • Expocentre, Moscow

Destination focus: The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is riding high on a wave of Russian tourist influx. With sun, sea, and miles of white sand, it’s always been an attractive destination, but last year the Caribbean nation saw an enormous 82% rise in Russian tourists.
Destination focus: The Dominican Republic
What caused this surge of more than 100,000 additional visitors? We spoke to Galina Lysenko, Director of the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic (MITUR) in Russia, Ukraine, and the CIS, to find out more about the destination and how it managed to harness the Russian market.

How important is the Russian market for the Dominican Republic?

In 2017, we saw a 3.8% increase in international tourists – 6,187,542 in total. The Russian market is among those showing the most growth. In October 2017, Russia was the second largest tourist flow after Germany, so the numbers speak for themselves.

How did you achieve such growth?

We believe the success is largely due to our consolidated position as a developed year-round destination. Russian tourists love the Dominican Republic for a variety of reasons: for relaxing on the beach, and visa-free entry, but most importantly for the opportunity to escape to the sun in the autumn-winter months. It’s a country of eternal sunshine, combined with a large number of beautiful hotels, interesting excursions, quality services, and entertainment programmes.

How many Russian tourists are you expecting in 2018?

We have every reason to believe this positive trend will continue. In January-February 2018, we saw a 4% increase in the total number of tourist arrivals, including a 1.4% rise in Russian tourists.
It’s plain to see the numbers are stabilising, so we’re optimistic for 2018. We’re still striving to diversify our offers, and develop sectors such as luxury, active leisure, and cultural tourism, etc.

What measures are you taking to attract Russian visitors to the Dominican Republic?

As well as traditional activities with tour operators, we plan to go beyond mass tourism and focus on niche offers for individual travelers. This includes gastronomy, MICE, golf, diving, wedding tourism, and cultural tourism. We will continue to hold events and promotional campaigns both in Moscow and the Russian regions. Of course, this implies traditional seminars in the Russian regions.

The Ministry of Tourism is making every effort to diversify its range of offers. It’s putting particular focus on Santo Domingo, the country’s cultural and historical centre. We’re also promoting the south-west of the Republic, which traditionally only sees Russian tourists on excursions, for example to Lake Enriquillo. Work is underway to transform the eco regions of Barahona and Pedernales, where the beaches are just as good as in the tourist regions of Punta Cana. There’s great hotels in these regions so if tourists decide to venture outside of Punta Cana, they will see a completely different and interesting Dominican Republic. Our goal is to make them want to see it all.

What is the main attraction of the Dominican Republic for Russians?

It’s hard to single out one thing. Russians love our pristine beaches, 28 of which are Blue Flag certified. This is a major draw. If we’re talking about cultural tourism, then perhaps I would say Santo Domingo, the capital of the Republic and the first European city of the New World. Here you can immerse yourself in the charm of the Colonial City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see the first buildings erected by the Spaniards during the development of the island.

Russian tourists love excursions. If we are talking about Puerto Plata, then this is certainly a trip on the Teleférico de Puerto Plata cable car. In winter time, humpback whale watching is really popular, as well as trips to caves, beautiful small islands, and other natural beauties.

Do you have a specific type of Russian tourist you’re targeting?

Everyone is important to us. The country is very multifaceted, so there’s something for everyone. At the same time, the government is also trying to diversify visitors' profile in a move to stimulate the premium sector, where average costs are immeasurably higher.

What tourism products are you offering in 2018? Are there any becoming more popular?

Aware of the variety of demand, the tourism industry is constantly working to diversify supply. Hotels are redefining traditional concepts: some offer all-inclusive packages in villas and apartments, others offer unlimited luxury all-inclusive, and others are adults only.

There are interesting boutique hotels such as the Casa del Diseñador in one of the colonial era mansions that have been transformed into the luxury Casas del XVI hotel in Santo Domingo. It’s set in several rooms in the childhood house of renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

Two amphitheaters have opened in Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, as well as a new congress centre currently being built in Puerto Plata. Agro and ecotourism is developing; the first and only winery in the Caribbean, Ocoa Bay, is testament to this. There’s an additional emphasis on the luxury sector – just look at the pool in the business lounge of Punta Cana Airport. The development of the south of the country is ongoing; work began on building the Puntarena resort in the Peravia province in February.

Have you noticed an increase in the popularity of cruises in recent times?

2017 was a record year for the cruise sector. 1.1 million tourists arrived to the Dominican Republic via our seaports last year, which is an increase of 37.7% compared to 2016. It's hard to say how many were Russians, but we know perfectly well that cruise routes around the Caribbean from Miami are popular with Russians and the Dominican Republic is often one of the main stops on these routes.

How was MITT 2018 for the Dominican Republic?

As always – this is our 13th year at MITT – the exchange of information was very productive. Interest in the Dominican Republic among representatives of the Russian tourism industry remains high and very inquisitive – it’s always a pleasure.

The exhibition allows us to stay up to date with news from other market players – their programmes and projects for the coming season, as well as talk about our varied tourism products. The Dominican Republic is the tourist destination of dreams, we could talk about it forever!

The mood in the country is for sustainable development, so new offers, hotels, excursions, and entire resort regions are constantly emerging and we use the exhibition to introduce people to them. After all, not everyone knows there is more to the Dominican Republic than its blue waters; there’s the charm of the vineyards, the incredible mountains, and even the pool at the airport.

Images: © Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic