What’s New in the Dominican Republic?
The Dominican Republic ranked as the Caribbean’s most-visited country last year—which is only the latest proof to a skyrocketing trend in popularity. There’s no mystery to the attraction. The island nation boasts 1,000 miles of idyllic beaches; pristine rain forest; the highest mountains in the Caribbean; the New World’s oldest colonial city; eight international airports; and resort areas with designer golf courses and luxurious, yet famously affordable, hotels that are destinations unto themselves—more than 100 of them all-inclusives.
Meeting planners find a lot to like in the Dominican Republic, from world-class conference sites to leisure attractions for every interest under the sun. So why go now? Here are just a few of the latest reasons.
- Even easier access. On November 2, Southwest Airlines will add daily flights to Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). United Airlines plans to boost its Dominican connection, too, with year-round service beginning December 20 between Houston and Punta Cana on Saturdays and on Sundays during periods of high demand. By December 31, Delta Airlines will have increased service into Punta Cana by more than 30 percent, primarily from its gateways in NewYork and Atlanta.
- New activities and attractions. Bragging rights to new experiences can’t help but rival the basic incentives of sun, sand, and sea.
- Years in the making, the largest amusement park in Latin America—Extreme Park Punta Cana—should open in the next few months. The $180-million project spans more than 247 acres and promises more than 30 attractions in its initial stage, including state-of-the-art roller coasters and a 6.4-acre pool equipped to simulate 46 different kinds of ocean waves. The plan also includes artificial mountains for snow sports, shops, restaurants, and an amphitheater designed to host top-name entertainers.
- Caribbean Dream, a Punta Cana–based DMC, recently added daylong Mini Cooper caravans to its excursions. Transported by self-driven Mini Cooper convertibles, groups might stop at Boca de Yuma, a remote fishing village made famous by Ponce de Leon; the world-renowned La Flor Cigar Factory at La Estancia; and Casa de Campo’s Altos deChavon, a remarkable re-creation of a sixteenth-century Mediterranean village.
- Set in the mountainous El Choco area, Monkey Jungle Dominican Republic operates a 4,500-foot ACCT-certified zip line with seven stations and a free-fall fan descender dropping almost 60 feet into a newly discovered cave. Thrill seekers can also tour the property’s five-acre botanical garden inhabited by more than 25 friendly squirrel monkeys and a large enclosure housing rescued capuchins. The kicker?All profits from the business go to a free on-site medical and dental clinic, which is staffed by volunteers and treats patients unable to afford health care.
- This April, Eden Roc at Cap Cana added a number of new experiences for business groups. These include a pop-up juice bar with a choice of Caribbean fruits and vegetables, olive oil and vinegar education and tasting, a cooking class focused on local dishes, and lessons in playing Dominican merengue and bachata music.
- New for meetings and incentives. The current boom in development centers on Santo Domingo and Punta Cana—for now.
- On August 27, Marriott International marked the Caribbean debut of the JW Marriott brandwhen it unveiled the new 150-room JW Marriott Santo Domingo in the capital’s business district. The hotel occupies a brand new tower built above the Blue Mall shopping and dining complex (and includes seven conference rooms for up to 360 delegates). Close by and hard on its heels comes the Real Inter Continental Santo Domingo. Scheduled to open in 2015, the $70 million property will feature 225 accommodations and multiple meeting rooms.
- Last November 15, AMResorts officially launched its all-new, all-inclusive, adults-only Breathless brand with the opening of Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa. Ideal as a destination for top executives, the chic beachfront property caters to sophisticated couples, singles, and small groups of friends.
- Earlier this year, a $6 million renovation turned the former Hotel Meliá Santo Domingo into the new Sheraton Santo Domingo Hotel. Close to the colonial zone, the newly reflagged hotel overlooks the Caribbean with 245 accommodations and meeting space for up to 1,000 attendees.
- The Occidental El Embajador recently received a $5 million makeover that updated the lobby, eight-room convention center, and 278 classically modern guest rooms. Always ranked among the best business hotels in town, the grand dame of Santo Domingo also provides extensive grounds, a pool, tennis court, and casino.
- Punta Cana’s Paradisus Palma Real Resort entered 2014 with a brand new convention center, an 18,000-square-foot beauty designed by Alvaro Sans, the Spanish architect known globally for his eco-friendly designs. The new facility gives a run for the money to scores of all-inclusives competing for group business in Punta Cana, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe, and Meliá Caribe Tropical, which all have large convention centers.
- Club Med Punta Cana refurbished its 4,000-square-foot conference center last year and updated its sports facilities and equipment. Plus, a new shuttle service ferries guests around the legendary beachfront property.
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo brought a second Hilton to the capital when it opened in the business district’s Silver Sun Gallery complex this June. The ultramodern high-rise provides 150 suites, a rooftop fitness center and pool, and 26,500 square feet for meetings and events.
For more information, go to www.godominicanrepublic.com. Or call the Ministry of Tourism offices in New York (888.374.6361), Miami (888.358.9594), or Chicago (888.303.1336).