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Minister Presents Eco-tourism and Infrastructure Developments

BAVARO, PUNTA CANA –  The Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) held in Punta Cana April 20-22 drew international tourism buyers and media to the Dominican Republic (DR), the Caribbean’s “It” destination for natural beauty, amazing eco-tourism and a growing wealth of sophisticated hotels and resorts.

During the country’s annual tourism conference, Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia stressed that the government will continue its strong investment in DR tourism infrastructure including building the Atlantic Boulevard in Puerto Plata, the revitalization and development of major highways and roads, and an “even deeper commitment to ensuring that the natural beauty of the DR is sustained for generations to come.”

Garcia announced the DR’s long-term commitment to developing beautiful, well-lit urban spaces where tourists can walk among shops and restaurants while experiencing the friendly culture and easy-going lifestyle of Dominicans.  He noted the urban space developments will take place in cities like Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo and Samana. Garcia also highlighted the concerted effort by the country to revitalize roads and build new highways, including a highway from Santo Domingo to Samana that shortens drive time from 5.5 to 2 hours and a planned highway from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana that will shorten the drive from 3.5 to 2 hours.

In addition, cruise tourism to the DR is growing with the newly opened Sans Souci terminal in the port of Santo Domingo and more cruise ships are regularly stopping in Samana and La Romana. He also noted that a study is underway to develop the port in Puerto Plata.
Referring to the global economic crisis, Tourism Minister Garcia said, “We have applied creativity to this situation, implementing increased advertising and promotions and signing new and expanded agreements with tour operators. We are opening nine new tourist offices including six in the U.S. and three in Europe, intensifying our presence in many international key markets while also working with airline partners to increase and maintain airlift to the DR.”

“Our country continues to attract international projects and capital from around the world. Savvy investors realize the DR is a very safe investment for tourism business,” he said. “Our tropical sunny climate, world-class seaports and marinas, eight international airports and growing list of upscale hotels and resorts are not going away. Our stunning coastal areas and the annual appearance of humpback whales in Samana, our unspoiled beaches, pristine mountains, and inland rivers and waterfalls are not going to go away.”

The DR is taking a multidisciplinary approach to tourism, business and environmental issues.  “The public and private sector are working hand-in-hand creating new projects that make sense for our environment, businesses and especially our families’ and visitors’ well-being.”

In addition, First Lady of the DR Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez presented the DR’s innovative national Responsible Tourism program at the conference and asked the tourism industry to stress quality over quantity. The DR’s Responsible Tourism efforts will incorporate both public and private sector support to encourage the country’s growing tourism industry to create and support programs that provide jobs for deserving families and sustain the DR’s unspoiled natural beauty. For more information, visit: http://beta.primeradama.gob.do/.

During the event, Garcia also highlighted a special approach to sustainable tourism developments in the DR’s southwest region, noting the area is the most bio-diverse territory in the Caribbean. There are plans for an educational institution near Baharona that will study the wealth of species, fauna and flora in the southwest with over $900 million being invested into innovative sustainable tourism developments in the southwest that could serve as global models.

Government signs pacts for Cofresi hotels, promotion in Europe

BERLIN. – The Dominican Government signed two agreements Friday, one with a European company that will build eight boutique hotels in Cofresí Bay, Puerto Plata at a cost of US$200 million, and the other with Air France to promote the country in 15 European nations.

Tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia made the announcement in a press conference in Berlin’s Marriot hotel, where he attends the ITB tourism fair 2009.

He also announced that Dominican Republic’s promotional video won second place in a competition with more than 300 presentations from different countries.

The company Marketing Beratung International (MBI) will build the hotels in Puerto Plata, in coordination with the chain Hacienda Resorts.

MBI general manager Alexander Schaufler said the project called Costa Esmeralda Peninsula will feature eight, 160 room boutique hotels in a first stage and 200 apartments after that.

The Tourism Minister said the project marks the Government’s effort to take attract upscale tourism to the Puerto Plata region. “This it is the type of tourism we want in Puerto Plata, aside from that additional investment, more tourists will come from Vienna.”

The official said the MBI executives will travel to Dominican Republic in mid April for the groundbreaking and immediately begin the works, for the first stage to be ready by end 2010.

Agreement with Air France

Garcia said the agreement with Air France is the only accord that carrier has ever signed with a Tourism ministry, and pledges to promote Dominican Republic in 15 European destinations where it frequently flies.

Upon signing the agreement, Air France executive Veronique Moulin said she was pleased by the Dominican Government’s interest in the pact she said has been under discussion for several years.

In that regard, Garcia said it’s a new step in the country’s promotion in the European market, source of many visitors to his country.

Promotion Prize

Dominican Republic won second place in the best promotional videos competition, with 180 part countries present in Berlin’s ITB fair taking part.

Garcia, who made the announcement during a banquet for local and other hoteliers from various countries in the De Rome hotel, said more than 300 promotions competed, “which shows that second place is a true victory for Dominican Republic.”

From DominicanToday.com

Dominican Republic’s north-west gets a makeover

The north-west of the Dominican Republic has undergone a make-over in recent years with more sand on its beaches, new hotels and less garbage along its highways. These are just a few of the signs that the region around Puerto Plata and Sosua is becoming attractive again for foreign tourists.

About 10 years ago, the region was making headlines in the tourist trade for its rock bottom prices. Then, investment suddenly dried up, hotels fell into disrepair and beaches became gradually dirty and uninviting.

But that’s a thing of the past and Puerto Plata now compares favourably with the more expensive holiday resorts at Punta Cana and Cap Can in the east.

Those resorts have picture perfect beaches that were designed on an architect’s drawing board, but the Dominican Republic’s north-west has managed to retain its vibrant local flavour and atmosphere.

A common sight around Puerto Plata are fishermen slamming domino pieces onto wobbly bar tables. The area’s discos also have more locals on their dance floors than tourists.

Getting around the region on one of the many small buses and collective taxis that ply their trade can also turn into a unique experience.

A decade ago that was a different story. A walk along the sea shore at Puerto Plata would have been a disappointment with hardly any sand, polluted water, beer cans and plastic containers littering the roads and streets.

But the region has managed to reverse that image and Long Beach is cleaner and wider than ever before thanks to 100,000 cubic metres of sand that were pumped onshore.

If you have the inclination, you can walk along the city beach to the holiday resort at Playa Dorada, the oldest in the country.

Playa Dorada has 14 hotel complexes and more than 4,000 rooms for guests. There has also been investment in tourist infrastructure with new golf courses, night clubs and shops.

Extra sand was also pumped onto the resort’s beach as well as the strand at the surfer village of Cabarete. Sosua’a beach is also due to be improved with more sand.

The busiest time of the week on Long Beach is Sunday afternoon when teenagers dance to merengue and local families picnic beneath the trees. There are plenty of pavilions with refreshments such as ice cold beer, rum and grilled fish.

The restored fortress of San Felip at the end of the promenade is a favourite spot for young people to come and flirt with each other.

Through the openings in the fortress’s embattlements there is a view of the harbour and the wider Caribbean Sea.

“Our promenade is really beautiful now. Puerto Plata has been transformed,” says Jose Camacho, a restaurant owner.

Meanwhile, midnight has come and with it closing time in one of Puerto Plata’s budget hotels. Although some of the slightly intoxicated guests are causing trouble, the barkeeper remains friendly and as cool as the situation demands.

Later he says, “We are not allowed to hit any of the guests”.

Just five minutes walk away from that scene, a couple are sipping Champagne beside a pool reflecting moonlight.

“Many people thought we were crazy because we wanted to build a high-class hotel like this in Puerto Plata,” says hotel general manager Roberto Casoni. But Casoni believes the region can look forward to a prosperous future thanks to tourism.

Nightlife in Sosua is more laid back than it used to be. The locals complained about the noise and some of the bars were forced to close their doors permanently.

Cabarete has a spectacular attraction for visitors – an evening walk along its fine sandy beach with the moon and stars competing for attention with the lights and lanterns of the village’s restaurants.

From www.earthtimes.org

Paradise Beach Resort to re-open in December

Hotel Paradise Beach Resort & Casino of the chain Amhsa Marina Hotels & Resorts, located in the Playa Dorada resort, Puerto Plata, will resume its operations in December after a renovation process in all its facilities.

Grand Paradise Playa Dorada is the new name that will identify the old Paradise Beach Resort & Casino.

The information was released by the vice president of sales & marketing Amhsa Marina Hotels & Resorts, Antonio Herrera, who said to carry out the renovation, the hotel closed its doors to the public on May 6.

Herrera noted that the reshuffle includes the construction of balconies in the rooms that hadn’t previously had one, new furniture and decor, mini flat screen televisions for greater comfort of the guests in the 425 rooms, and remodeled lobby, casino, disco and restaurants

Source: Dominican Today

Air Canada to launch direct Halifax-Orlando seasonal service

Air Canada announced today that beginning February 6, 2009, it will launch bi-weekly non-stop seasonal service between Halifax and Orlando. This seasonal service will be offered until May 10, 2009.