Saturday,  February 4, 2023  1:03 am

Punta Cana bookings are soaring above 2019 levels, says DR Tourism Minister

Punta Cana bookings are soaring above 2019 levels, says DR Tourism Minister
Minister of Tourism for the Dominican Republic David Collado addresses travel industry partners in Toronto. (Supplied)
Pax Global Media

Minister of Tourism for the Dominican Republic, David Collado, recently made his second visit to Canada in the past six months to meet with tour operators, airlines, travel advisors and partners.

Making an appearance in Toronto this past week, Minister Collado reiterated how Canadians are a key market for the Dominican Republic and how his government is working to support local partners.

The Minister presented new statistics that indicate tourism recovery and growth:

“The Dominican Republic is a favourite sun destination for Canadians,” Collado said. “We had nearly 1,700 flights from Canada within the first ten months of the year. A large source of traffic comes out of Ontario with a 97 per cent increase this year over 2021. Canadian customer satisfaction remains very high with nine out of 10 exit polls showing guests would return in future. Hotels and excellent beaches were the elements most often cited in customer satisfaction surveys.”

READ MORE: Air Transat, Sunwing & Air Canada sign cooperation agreement with the DR

Current hotel reservations in Punta Cana, for one, are up 20 per cent over pre-pandemic bookings, he said.

“We have just confirmed 500 additional flights into Punta Cana this winter. It is one of the most popular sun destinations out of Canada and we want to ensure that agents have inventory to sell,” added Collado.

The Minister acknowledged that while inflation has increased the cost of travel, only seven per cent of Canadians said they would cancel travel plans, he said.

“We are well positioned to cater to a price sensitive market because our packages offer excellent value. We have a high level of service, competitive pricing, and a reputation for safety and service. This all combines to make us highly competitive heading into the winter season,” the Minister said.

“They clearly have a vision”

Last May, at the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, better known as “DATE,” Dominican’s Ministry of Tourism and Asonahores (the Hotel and Tourism Association of the Dominican) signed an agreement with Canadian tour operators and airlines aimed at promoting new air routes out of Canada.

On hand to ink the deal – a letter of intent – was Renée Boisvert, vice-president of products at Air Transat, Eric Rodriguez, executive vice-president of partner development at Sunwing Travel Group and Dina Bertolo, vice-president of product development at Air Canada Vacations. 

rom left: Renée Boisvert, VP of products, Air Transat, Eric Rodriguez, EVP, partner development, Sunwing Travel Group; Dina Bertolo, VP of product development, Air Canada Vacations at DATE 2022. (Pax Global Media)

While there has always been an element of collaboration between governments and travel companies, the DR’s support for Canada’s tour operators and travel advisors, in recent years, has improved, Boisvert, Rodriguez, and Bertolo, told PAX at the conference.

“We’ve never seen this kind of support, so quick, from a destination,” ACV’s Bertolo said at the time. “They clearly have a vision for improving the tourism infrastructure here and supporting the companies that are operating in these destinations.”

To be clear, the Dominican government has always been supportive of Canadian tour ops, the group said. But ever since President Luis Abinader assumed office in August 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift in strategy.

“They’re much more present,” Transat’s Boisvert said. “They’re working with tour operators but also speaking to the travel agent community. That’s what we need right now.”

The Dominican Republic also appears to be treating Canada like Canada.

“Kudos to this government because we find that, in many cases, a lot of countries treat Canada as the same as the U.S.,” Bertolo said. “They’ll treat us like we’re a state north of New York, but we’re a completely different market, in a different country, with completely different travel patterns.”

From left: Dominican Republic's Minister of Tourism David Collado, President Luis Abinader & Dina Bertolo, VP of product development, Air Canada Vacations. (Pax Global Media)

For Sunwing, the DR’s agreement is “a good sign that they’re investing in tourism,” Rodriguez added.

“In the past, a lot of this has been on the backs of tour operators to promote the destination and send clients there,” he said.

Sunwing, with its own hotel division, has an investment in the Dominican Republic in terms of bricks and mortars, so the government’s close collaboration with Canada, and other countries, “makes us feel a lot more comfortable and continue to invest in the destination and grow the overall operations at Sunwing Travel Group,” Rodriguez told PAX at the time.

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!  Click here to follow PAX on Facebook.