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Puerto Rico’s Wake-up Call

Upscale Casa de Campo looms as a formidable competitor in Caribbean battle for U.S. tourist dollars. P.R.’s tourism industry is not heeding warnings about Dominican Republic.


May 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico, currently the leader in overnight visitors to the Caribbean, has been warned repeatedly that it must act decisively and quickly to defend its title, particularly against the Dominican Republic.

Puerto Rico currently dominates in the region, with 17% of the total overnight visitors, but the Dominican Republic is hot on its heels, with an annual growth of 5% forecast through 2020.

In April, the Dominican Republic reported an average occupancy rate of 81.2%; Punta Cana-Bavaro and Romana-Bayahibe had occupancy levels of 92.7% and 87.7%, respectively. The higher visitor-growth rate for the Dominican Republic is fueled by the destination’s focus on a lower-priced but high-volume all-inclusive model for tourism, which recorded impressive growth of 11% from 1995 to 2000.

According to experts, the success the Dominican Republic has enjoyed in the European market is largely thanks to its competitively priced all-inclusive resorts. The Dominican Republic generated three million overnight visitors and $2.9 billion in total visitor expenditures in 2000.

However, one of Puerto Rico’s biggest rivals in the Dominican Republic--Casa de Campo at La Romana--isn’t an inexpensive all-inclusive property like others in the D.R. It’s an upscale resort that gives its guests the option to purchase a meal plan with no menu restrictions and unlimited drinks, horseback riding, tennis, and nonmotorized water sports.

"Casa de Campo is a true competitor to Puerto Rico’s luxury hotels, not only for the leisure traveler but also for small groups and local businesses," said Jose Suarez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. "It definitely is a strong and solid destination resort, and we need to learn from our competitors."

Suarez said he is considering visiting La Romana; Cancun and Riviera Maya in Mexico, and Cuba to study their tourist offerings. Rick Newman, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, reiterated the need for all in Puerto Rico to work as a team to counterattack these rival destinations.

"We must develop the necessary elements to move tourism forward," Newman said. "Part of our important strategy for tourism is to get the industry and government to work together toward a common goal--to counter the aggressiveness."

Casa de Campo, for example, is seeking to lure more affluent U.S. travelers--the very travelers who represent Puerto Rico tourism’s bread and butter. The destination is also vying for more of the cruise market and the convention business.

In November Casa de Campo will become the homeport to the cruise ships Costa Classica, Costa Marina, Princess Aida Vita, and SXM Pacific Dream. It will also host Costa Atlantica, Costa Mediterranean, Costa Victoria, Carnival Paradise, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Constellation, and Sun Cruises’ Sunbird.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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