BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- While children play in one of the swimming pools, their parents are trying to keep up with the activities director in another pool. Meanwhile, other guests are strolling on the adjacent white sand beach or swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
Welcome to NH Real Arena, an upscale all-inclusive hotel in Punta Cana, an area in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic which Lonely Planet calls "ground zero of DR tourism." The Punta Cana international airport accounts for more than half of all international arrivals to the Dominican Republic, according to deputy tourism minister Radhames Martinez.
While global tourism has been hit by the international economic crisis, Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic have largely been spared. Dominican tourism only saw a slight decline in the first half of the year and performed much better than other tourist destinations in the Caribbean, Martinez says. In May and June it even grew compared to the same months last year, he adds.
Hotels like RH Real Arena haven’t seen any decline, according to the property’s Italian manager Domenico Cacace. “We’re just as full as last year,” he says. The hotel’s rooms have been filled up by tourists from Spain, the United States and locals.
The Dominican Republic last year received a total of 3.8 million international visitors, which was virtually the same as in 2007. However, tourism receipts grew by 2.8 percent to $4.2 billion, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO).
That means that the Dominican Republic is again the largest recipient of tourism receipts when measured with its GDP, according to a Latin Business Chronicle ranking based on data from the WTO and International Monetary Fund. Its receipts last year were equivalent to 9.2 percent of its $45.6 billion economy.
The Dominican Republic is also the largest tourism destination in the Caribbean and the fourth-largest in Latin America after giants like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. When measuring arrivals compared to total population, the Dominican Republic ranks third in Latin America.
All in all, Latin America last year received 72.0 million visitors, an increase of 4.5 percent from 2007 and a new record, according to according to a Latin Business Chronicle ranking based on WTO data. Receipts from tourism grew by 6.1 percent to $62.9 billion.
Arrivals last year were the equivalent of 12.7 percent of the region’s population of 569,000, but receipts were only equivalent to 1.7 percent of Latin America’s $4.2 trillion economy, our analysis shows.
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Keywords: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay