Travel suppliers, buyers, sellers and media are on the ultimate date in the Dominican Republic this week as the 2022 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, better known as “DATE,” kicked off Wednesday night (May 11) at Barceló Bávaro Grand Resort.
Now in its 22nd edition, DATE 2022 – this year attracting some 160 suppliers and buyers from 20 countries – is the primary platform for business meetings between international travel agents, tour operators and main suppliers of the Dominican Republic’s tourism sector.
PAX is currently on location in the DR covering the festive gathering, which not only aims to secure deals, but also promote the destination’s cultural attractions through on-site art exhibits, musical entertainment and artistic performances.
A high-energy kick-off party and welcome ceremony unfolded last night at the Barceló Bávaro convention centre, where Dominican’s Minister of Tourism David Collado, and other officials, welcomed delegates.
Rafael Blanco Tejera, president of the Hotel and Tourism Association of the Dominican (ASONAHORES), told PAX that the Dominican Republic, at this point in time, is “in good hands” as far as arrivals and clients are concerned, having “practically recovered” its pre-pandemic traffic levels.
Indeed, last month, the Dominican Republic welcomed more than 626,000 visitors, marking the first time the destination had received more than 600,000 travellers in a calendar month.
This also represented a 91 per cent increase compared to April 2021 – a period that faced a well-documented slowdown due to heightened COVID-19 fears and travel restrictions.
Most travellers in April arrived in the Dominican by airplane, but a noteworthy crowd of some 129,000 cruise passengers also sailed in as ships have returned to ports following months of uncertainty and shutdowns.
The Dominican Republic has removed all of its COVID-19 entry requirements for international visitors, making it an easier spot to visit, and the country is clearly preparing for a comeback with the renovation of Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ), a USD$280 million-upgrade that began in February that will see the country’s busiest airport add a logistics centre and expand its terminals.
While the DR, compared to other Caribbean nations, eased its entry protocols in the early stages of COVID, Mr. Tejera said the country’s strategy – a collaboration between the public and private sectors – opened tourism “in a responsible way” that didn’t put the community, or hotels, at risk.
“We really need to consolidate that recovery because we don’t want to go back to a situation where the arrivals start falling down,” Tejera told PAX last night, sharing the goals and objectives of DATE 2022, which runs until May 13.
The conference, which includes pre-booked meetings between delegates and off-site dinners, will also (hopefully) result in new partnerships, Tejera explained, citing a “strong interest” from potential investors who are banking on Dominican’s success.
Canadian market heating up
While Americans make up the bulk of tourists visiting the DR these days, representing some 40 per cent of arrivals, the Canadian market is also gaining steam, Mr. Tejera said.
Even if the spring and summer months are a slower time for Canadian arrivals: “It’s starting to pick up,” he said.
“We’ve been trying, for the last 18 months, to bring Canadians here… it’s a big market for us.”
“We know the health measures in Canada were extremely strict, and we respect that obviously, but we think we’re at a point now where everybody feels that travel is less of a risk.”
Stay tuned as PAX brings you more on-location coverage from DATE 2022 in the Dominican Republic.