Tourism in Dominican Republic tries to dodge Covid-19

. Sep 29, 2020
Tourism in Dominican Republic Photo: Kachor Valentyna/Shutterstock

As of the end of September, the Dominican Republic had recorded 109,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and just over 2,000 deaths for its population of 10.6 million. While the pandemic did not hit the Hispaniola nation as severely as other parts of Latin America, with the country being ranked 12th in Covid-19 death rate per million people (190), the major impact of the coronavirus crisis has been the near stoppage to the country’s tourism industry. 

According to the Dominican Tourism Ministry, the influx of foreign holidaymakers accounts for 12 percent of the country’s GDP.

During the health crisis, due to the shortage of people coming to enjoy the Dominican beaches, this tourism-oriented country might fall into recession.&nbsp;</p> <p>In April, seeing the chaos on the horizon, the government in Santo Domingo successfully applied for a USD 650 million loan through the Rapid Financing Instrument of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And with the Covid-19 curve beginning to flatten in mid-September, Tourism Minister David Callado announced the country’s “Responsible Tourism Recovery Plan” to try and safely attract foreign visitors once more.</p> <p>The plan forecasts “random and non-invasive” coronavirus tests on tourists, as well as a special form of travel insurance to cover medical expenses of those who may be infected during their stay. “The Tourism Recovery Plan includes measures that no country in the region currently has,” Mr. Callado said, while launching the initiative on September 15.&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, the Dominican Republic has stood out among its neighbors. Despite an economic downturn and the huge dip in tourism, the IMF said the nation was the only one in the region to have <a href="">&#8220;stable&#8221; GDP changes</a> during the pandemic, expected to fall just 1 percent over 2020.&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond offering medical assistance, the Dominican government will provide extra hotel stays and flight alterations — free of charge — in the case of contamination. The Dominican Health Ministry will also publish a health control report listing specifications related to infection and potential among tourists staying in the country.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Tourism, the Dominican cornerstone</strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>The first Covid-19 case in <a href="">Latin America</a> was reported on February 26, in São Paulo, Brazil. Until September 23, the disease has killed 332,342 people and infected more than 9 million across the entirety of the region. When the crisis started, the Dominican Republic&#8217;s President Luis Abinader had yet to be elected, becoming the <a href="">first and so far only Latin American leader</a> to face the polls and win the presidential sash during the pandemic.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even during his campaign, Mr. Abinader showed himself to be fully aware that Covid-19 and the tourism industry — and their impacts on each other — were the country&#8217;s top priorities. He even tested positive for the coronavirus during canvassing.</p> <p>Now, with the virus spread stabilizing for the time being, all the focus is on galvanizing the Dominican Republic&#8217;s prime cash cow. Every year, more than 6.5 million people visit the country&#8217;s paradisiacal beaches, including 2.2 million tourists from the U.S., according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.&nbsp;</p> <p>Tourism authorities in the Dominican Republic began gearing the country toward tourism back in the mid-1970s. With an economy largely centered on the export of tropical fruits and ores, the country realized its tourism potential and opened itself up to foreign investment — mainly from major Spanish hotel groups.</p> <p>The strategy began working, and the Dominican Republic has not stopped raking in money from abroad. Between 2010 and 2018, the country received more than USD 22 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI), an annual average of almost USD 2.4 billion, according to the Dominican Central Bank. The top three investors are the U.S. (USD 4.7 billion), Canada (USD 4.3 billion), and Brazil (USD 2.3 billion).&nbsp;</p> <p>And it&#8217;s not just foreigners Mr. Abinader is trying to attract to the Dominican Republic&#8217;s lavish resorts. The government has also implanted an incentive plan for domestic tourism, allowing Dominicans to take out zero-tariff loans to spend in hotels. Next month, the plan will be truly put to the test, as 50 hotels and resorts will reopen in different tourist spots around the country.

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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