During the 2015 Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE) held at the Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort Convention Center in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic reported its fifth consecutive year of growth in the tourism sector, capping off 2014 with 5.1 million visitors—450,000 being new tourists to the island. To accommodate the influx of travelers, new infrastructure and attractions are in the works and over 1,000 new hotel rooms have been added, with an additional 2,000 rooms expected for 2015. Much of the action is happening in Santo Domingo, where the remodeling of the Colonial City is adding new and renovated hotel rooms and spurring excitement over the possibility of an expo center.
“The Colonial City project is key to the growth of the meeting and conference segment,” says Simon Suarez, president of Asonahores. “Santo Domingo offers a wide array of entertainment options and the after-hours offers will continue to strengthen with demand.”
Walking through the Colonial City, the cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture of stucco, stone and brick found in churches and other 16th century buildings are blended with contemporary entertainment venues, shops, restaurants and bars like those that line the Plaza de España, an expansive square where groups can enjoy live music and dance performances. The Spanish-style 16th century home of Nicolas de Ovando, the first governor of Santo Domingo, has been repurposed as the 104 room Hostal Nicolas de Ovando Santo Domingo. There are several spaces for functions for 15 to 250 people, including the Hernan Cortes Patio, where our group enjoyed a five-course meal and danced the Merengue and Bachata to Latin and Caribbean music played by a live band.
A new attraction, the Colonial Gate 4D Cinema, gives groups a glimpse into the 1586 Battle of Santo Domingo. The mist of the sea, the rumble of cannon balls; groups will see it, hear it and feel it. Part cinema and part art gallery, the airy space has four gallery rooms, two theaters and an outdoor patio for group events.
“I think one of the most special things about Santo Domingo is the combination of a modern, vibrant city with all the historical and cultural background that symbolize what makes Santo Domingo a very unique destination,” says Marianela Pina, of the Dominican Republic Tourist Board.
Unique and modern is a fitting description of the Vertygo 101 Lounge & Bar at the JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo. The glass floor grants the feeling of walking on air while looking down from the 12th floor onto the street below. In addition to theoutdoor deck, the recently opened 150-room hotel, offers 7,350 sf of meeting space.
The island’s North Coast is also experiencing development with the newest cruise port in the Caribbean, Amber Cove in Puerto Plata, opening in October 2015. The 30-acre property has two cruise ship births, an excursion pier, a pool, private cabanas, welcome center and retail shops—the architectural design mimics traditional brightly colored colonial houses.