Updated: Jan 24, 2019
The province of Puerto Plata, located on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, is one of the main destinations in the country where the tourism industry has flourished, thanks to the natural beauty of the area, as well as its historical and cultural legacy. In addition, multiple relaxing activities, water sports and nightlife complement its varied offer. After being declared in 1972 as a tourist demarcation for its many attractions and great potential, the province experienced a good growth leveraged on tourism, thus becoming the first tourist pole in the country.
However, in the absence of a strategic plan for continuous development, it reached a point where it gradually lost the necessary momentum to stay afloat. To give an example, according to data from the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (ASONAHORES), since 2006 the average occupancy rate in tourist accommodation establishments in Puerto Plata began to register a marked progressive decline. This is partly caused by the drop in arrivals by air, the aging of existing infrastructures and the strong competition with other markets.
However, as of 2012, signs of improvement began to be observed, with the start of the construction work of the Amber Cove Cruise Terminal, a private investment made by the multinational Carnival Corporation. The project, located in the Bay of Maimon, entailed a total investment of USD $ 85 million. Although this only focused on the cruise segment, new winds began to blow for the entire tourist cluster of the province, protected by a new awakening.
Before the first cruise ship arrived on the month of October 2015, the authorities had already started in 2014 a revitalization plan for the historic center of Puerto Plata. These efforts also included the remodeling of the Tourist and Landscape Park of La Puntilla, as well as the construction of the Puerto Plata Amphitheater within it, which were inaugurated in mid-2016.
Although the revitalization of the historic center did not end completely until the beginning of 2018, the works carried out with the laying of paving stones, gutters, sewers, poles, lighting and tree planting, turned out to be a successful effort to dignify the attractions of the area. In this way, the image was truly adapted to meet the demands dictated by the reality of the moment.
A PROMISING FUTURE
At present, although there is still a long way to go to reach the full potential that Puerto Plata has to offer, under this new context of rebirth, the panorama now looks much more encouraging. Several projects promise to continue promoting the growth of this tourist location.
Below, we present some of the projects that in the near future intend to stimulate the growth towards new levels. Some are on track to start this year, while others (already started) are expected to be completed between this year or next.
With an investment of around US $ 125 million, on January 15, the Dominican government began the reconstruction work of the Port of Puerto Plata. According to data from the Dominican Port Authority (APORDOM), the entire port will be rebuilt with collateral works, such as a treatment plant, fishermen's wharf with independent access road, transfer of the entire container yard and cargo area, as well as the extension of the main jetty, plus the cruise terminal, which will be able to receive three ships simultaneously of the new Oasis-class size ships. It is expected that it can receive some 680,000 cruise passengers from 2020.
This would turn the Taino Bay into the terminal that would receive the most tourists in all the country since it will not be used neither operated by any cruise line exclusively but will remain open to multiple shipping companies, as it is the case with Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages who have expressed interest in the project. The company in charge of the work belongs to the Mexican ITM Group, which already has experience with the ports of Costa Maya, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and in Honduras; while the concession for its construction was awarded to the Puerto Plata Port Investment consortium and Mahahual Tourist Promotions.
According to the Seatrade Cruise News portal, Taino Village is themed on the culture of the pre-Columbian Taino people. Monkey Jungle will be an interactive eco park with capuchin monkeys, a botanical garden, aviary, reptile island, marine habitat and sustainability center. Shops, bars, restaurants, plazas for live entertainment and a museum comprise Buccaneers Village. Fort Cibao will be a theme park with waterslides, coasters and a lazy river, children's and VIP areas and swimming with rays and cat sharks. A multi-stage zip line will encircle the entire facility.
Marriott International and The Ocean Club Group, have also announced the construction of two luxury hotels and a change of brand to one of their existing properties, representing three of Marriott International's most captivating luxury brands: The Luxury Collection, W Hotels and Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
With an investment of more than US $ 350 million, these hotels will increase the offer of hospitality in the Puerto Plata market and will create a new niche for luxury tourism. Marriott International currently operates six properties in the Dominican Republic. The minister of tourism, Francisco Javier García, informed that the investors have already closed the acquisition of the land where the hotel projects would be located.
The Ocean Club, a Luxury Collection Resort, is located on Imbert Beach and has 64 rooms. On the other hand, W Dominican Republic will bring the bold style of the brand to the destination. Located in Cabarete, W guests can find their own adventure, be it windsurfing, kite surfing, surfing or exploring the area's famous nightlife. Scheduled to open in 2021, the 201-room W-brand hotel will offer multiple restaurants, bars and exclusive sites for locals and guests from all over the world. Finally, located east of Cabarete, the Ritz-Carlton Reserve will offer 80 rooms and suites, with its opening planned for 2022, joining the only three other Ritz-Carlton Reserves in the world.
The rehabilitation of the Navarrete-Puerto Plata and the Gregorio Luperón tourist roads are currently the two road infrastructure works of major importance for the economic development of the province. Both will reduce the travel time to Puerto Plata from Santiago de Los Caballeros and, once readjusted, will have greater security, counteracting the critical state in which they were.
In addition the Navarrete-Puerto Plata highway, about 46 kilometers long, will have an extension of the promenade and extension lane. It is currently advancing, except for the 16km of the Maimón section due to a temporary impasse. The Gregorio Luperón tourist highway, with a 60-kilometer route, also with the extension of its lanes, sewage system, and retaining walls at critical points. To the rhythm of the current works, both works could be completed at the beginning of the year 2020.
Also, within the national budget for this 2019, the Ministry of Tourism has an allocation of RD $ 700 million for the regeneration of 11 beaches in different parts of the country, within these includes Cofresí, in Puerto Plata.
Finally, the landfill of Puerto Plata, located just 3 km from the Amber Cove port, is a big headache because of its proximity to it, being the welcome that awaits hikers who leave the terminal to visit the city or other attractions of area. Although an aesthetic fill was made to avoid the visual from the cart, it is still a source of contamination, completely detracting from the tourist mechanics of the area.
However, in December 2018 the tourism minister, Francisco Javier García, revealed that local considerations are taken to remedy the situation. As indicated, the city of Puerto Plata received a budget of RD $ 250 million that will be invested in the technical closure of the current landfill, as well as for the purchase of an appropriate land where it will be established again, and the proper construction of a landfill sanitary.
Sources: Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, Seatrade Cruise News, Urbanopolis