Dominican Republic: a nature’s gem in the Caribbean

The second largest and the most diverse Caribbean country, the Dominican Republic is an ideal destination for tourists from across the world. With its astounding nature, intriguing history and rich culture, and most importantly, its warm and hospitable people, the country is a popular international tourist destination. In an exclusive interview to TnH, H.E. HANS DANNENBERG CASTELLANOS, Ambassador of The Dominican Republic to India talks about uniqueness and other aspects of his country as a popular tourist destination.

Q. How important is the tourism sector for the Dominican Republic’s economy?

Tourism industry is the biggest industry in our country. In the last 15-20 years, the tourism industry has emerged as the main economic driver in our country. We have received 6.5 million international tourists till now this year and we hope our tourist arrivals will reach 7 million by the end of this year. In terms of the number of tourist arrivals, we are the second biggest tourist destination after Mexico in the region.

Q. Tell us about the tourism opportunities in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic has three main tourist destinations: Punta Cana in the East Coast of the Island, Puerto Plata in the North Coast of the Island and Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo, a historical city is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Besides being the favorite destination for nature lovers, the city has some great historical monuments. The first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World, Santo Domingo boasts of being the site of the first university, the first cathedral, the first castle, the first monastery, and the first fortress in the New World. Located in the easternmost part of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is a popular resort town known for its beautiful beaches facing both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Famous for its resorts, Puerto Plata, an important trading port in the country, is home to the only aerial tramway in the Caribbean nations.

Besides beaches, mountains and historical sites, we are also famous for our golf courses. We have one of the biggest number of golf courses in the Caribbean region including some award winning golf courses. The most important thing that makes us different from the rest of the Caribbean is our people, who are very friendly, hospitable and spontaneous. The Dominican Republic is famous for its vibrant culture and popular music such as Merengue and Bachata. It is our people that distinguish us from other Caribbean countries.

Q. How important is India for the Dominican Republic as a tourist market?

We are trying to increase the number of tourists from India to our country, but I understand the distance between the two countries does not help, and the fact that India has many neighboring countries with beautiful beaches also discourages Indians to travel to long-haul destinations such as the Dominican Republic for beach holiday experiences. Indian tourists prefer to visit countries within its neighborhood such as Thailand, Maldives and Sri Lanka. However, we have big Indian diasporas in Canada as well as in the United States that do travel often to the Dominican Republic. Since we opened our embassy in India 12 years ago, the number of Indian arrivals to the Dominican Republic has been increasing. Then we used to receive meager 100 Indians; now more than 2000 Indians including NRIs from the US and Canada are visiting the Dominican Republic annually. We hope more and more Indian tourists will visit our country in future.

Q. How simple is visa process for Indians?

We have eliminated requirement of visa for those Indian nationals who hold residency or multi-entry visa of Canada or the US. Indians who live in Canada or in the US or have multi-entry visa of either country can travel to the Dominican Republic without visa. We have many Indians coming to our country and they also bring families and friends from India. We have facilitated visa for Indians planning to our country. Now Indians holding multiple entry visa of the UK, the US or Schengen don’t need visa to come to the Dominican Republic. Those Indians who don’t have such visa can apply to our embassy in New Delhi, and we will issue visa to them within 48 hours. If you are travelling for tourist purpose, you need to furnish your hotel reservation details along with visa application. In other cases, you need to provide the invitation you have received from the Dominican Republic.

Q. How is the connectivity between these two countries?

I think connectivity has improved a lot. Earlier Indians had to fly via the US or Europe to go to the region; now they have new ways to go there. You have the option to go through Istanbul, Dubai, Moscow, Doha or Ethiopia. I hope Air India will soon start flying directly to the region without going to the US. I think it will eventually happen.

Q. What are the key international source markets for the Dominican Republic?

Our key source markets are Canada, US, Spain, UK and Italy but we are diversifying our markets as we realize that we cannot depend on one region or country to sustain our tourism industry because if we rely on one market and there is a crisis in that market, our tourism arrivals will be affected adversely. We have strengthened our position in Latin and north American markets. Now we are trying to get to Chinese market. We are also looking forward to welcoming more and more Indian tourists as they travel with their families and are high spenders.

Q. How do you see India as a tourist destination?

We appreciate Indian Government’s decision to include our country under its evisa scheme that will definitely improve people-to-people contact and tourism exchange between the two countries. Tourism industry is one of the important sectors with potential to eliminate poverty and create new job opportunities for people. It can create economic opportunities in remote areas. I think India should continue to work for more and more tourist arrivals. It must improve its infrastructure such as roads, airports and civic amenities. Tourists must get first impression in their first visit. Infrastructure around monuments should be improved. We want India to open its embassy in the Dominican Republic to facilitate people to people contact between the two countries.

Q. What are the places you like in India? what about Indian food?

I have visited and seen a lot of Indian places. Leh, Sikkim, Srinagar and the North Eastern Part of India are my favorite places in India. I love Himalayas. I also like Kerala but it is very similar to our country. I like Chandigarh, Amritsar and its Golden Temple. Among the Indian foods, I like Murg Malai Tikka and Paneer Tikka.

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