Dominican Republic (DR) Sets New Tourism Record in 2010
The DR welcomed 4,124,543 visitors in 2010 according to the Dominican Republic Central Bank. This represents an increase of 132,240 visitors (3.3 percent growth) over the previous year. It is the first time that the number of visitors to the DR has surpassed four million. Visitation to the DR this past December was up 0.75 percent, despite several flight cancellations due to snowstorms. The U.S. continues to be the leading market for the country with over one million visitors arriving to the sunny paradise for six years in a row. Overall, there was an increase of 83,022 tourists from North America. South America is also a strong market with 67,436 more arrivals from Argentina (26,052), Brazil (17,583), Chile (11,234), and Central America and the Caribbean. Punta Cana International (PUJ) in the DR continues to be the busiest airport, welcoming 57 percent of all arrivals. Las Americas International Airport follows with 22 percent and Puerto Plata at 11 percent. The DR Central Bank reports that most tourists came for leisure travel (91 percent) and stayed in hotels. www.bancentral.gov.do/publicaciones_economicas/informe_turistico/informe_turistico2010-12.pdf.

Tortuga Bay Receives Prestigious Five Diamond Award
The Five Diamond Award has honored Punta Cana’s luxurious Tortuga Bay Hotel with the AAA Five Diamond Award. The Oscar de la Renta designed hotel is the first in the DR and one of only four hotels in the Caribbean to receive the honor. The AAA Five Diamond Award is presented to properties demonstrating the highest level of overall excellence according to the AAA Diamond Ratings System for restaurants and lodging. For more information on Tortuga Bay, visit www.PuntaCana.com. Information about Diamond Ratings and a complete list of Five Diamond Lodging and Restaurants can be found at www.AAA.com/NEWS.

President Leonel Fernandez Inaugurates New Bannister Hotel in Samaná
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated a new Bannister Hotel located in the Bay of Samaná on Dec. 15, 2010. Located 17 miles from Samaná El Catey International Airport, the $100 million hotel and residential development overlooks Samaná Bay and includes a full-service marina, spa, fitness room, beach club, tennis courts, equestrian center, shopping arena, 185 luxury vacation homes and countless year-round activities. www.PuertoBahiaSamana.com

Saturdays at the Alcazar de Colon
The Palace of Columbus (Alcazar de Colon) in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City presents the opportunity to relive the majestic life of the 16th Century at the Plaza de España every Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight. The time of the court of Don Diego Colon and Maria de Toledo are brought to life by actors in full 16th century attire telling the significance of the historic monument and its first inhabitants. The costumes are designed by leading Dominican designers, such as Leonel Lirio, Hipolito Pena, Roberto Flores, Giannina Azar, Magaly Tiburcio, Jorge Diep, Luis Rivas, Berkola, Carla Carbonell, Luis Dominguez and Carlos de Moya.

2nd Annual International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout
The 17th Annual International Billfish Shootout, in its 2nd year at Cap Cana, will take place from May 31-June 5, 2011 at the Cap Cana Marina. This 3-day, all-release team event is comprised of two to four person angler teams, each boat accompanied by a certified observer. Registration and entry fees for the tournament are $3,000 for a team of up to four anglers and must be received by May 30, 2011; however, the tournament will be offering an early bird discount rate of $2,550 if the entry fee is paid by April 1, 2011. For online registration and more details, contact tournament organizers at info@intlbillfishtourns.com.

15th Annual Juan Marichal Golf Classic
Greg Norman, designer of the Costa Blanca Golf Course, helped celebrate the 15th Annual Juan Marichal Golf Classic on Jan. 14-16, 2011. The event raised funds for A Roof for My Country, a Chilean foundation that constructs homes for impoverished communities in Latin America. Los Marlins Golf Course at Metro Country Club in Juan Dolio hosted the golf classic as it has in previous years.

DR National Forest Coverage Increases
Due to the Plan Nacional Quisqueya Verde, national forest coverage in the DR is increasing and reached 33 percent, a 5.4 percent increase over the past seven years. Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez and the Ministry of Environment have declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests in hopes of achieving a strategic alliance with the media to benefit the forests. From mahogany and local pine, to cedar, oak and tamarind, 11,400,000 different species of trees were planted in 2010. The reforestation program was initiated in October 1997 in order to advance reforestation and restore and preserve biodiversity in the DR.

DR Ministry of Tourism Invests in National Beach Management and Landscaping Plan
The DR Ministry of Tourism will invest $2.5 million in the National Beach Management and Landscaping Plan, a program anticipated to recover and landscape more than 250 public beaches nationwide, including 18 of the country’s most popular. The project’s first stage was initiated in September and will accompany an awareness campaign intended to protect the DR’s beautiful beaches. With an expected time length of 18 months and four different phases, the project enhances the conditions of beaches around the country. www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.

Cadaques del Caribe Resort Opens in Bayahibe
Built at a cost of $60 million, the family-oriented resort Cadaques del Caribe officially opened on Dec. 18, 2010 in Bayahibe. The resort features two swimming pools, an aquatic park, three restaurants, a wine bar, fitness center, a salon for children and more.

Land Whale Observatory Opens in Samaná Bay
The Ministry of Environment inaugurated the DR’s first land whale observation point on Jan. 15, 2011 to commence the DR’s annual whale watching season. The observatory is located at Punta Balandra and allows visitors to view the hundreds of humpback whales that migrate to the protected area of the Marine Mammals Sanctuary in Samaná Bay by land rather than boat.

Celebrities Celebrate the Holidays in the DR
Celebrities from around the globe celebrated the holiday season throughout the DR. Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, former Panamanian President Martin Torrijos and Mexican singer Marco Antonio Solis celebrated at La Romana’s Casa de Campo on the DR’s East Coast. Also spotted on the East Coast were Mexican singer Luis Miguel and TV producer Daysi Fuentes, who enjoyed fine cuisine at the Mitre Restaurant in the Cap Cana Marina.

Exhibition Opens at Calle El Conde Mall
“Origins and History of El Conde Street” opened at the Calle El Conde mall in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City with the help of Dominican architects, the city of Santo Domingo, Tourism Cluster of Santo Domingo and the DR Ministry of Culture. The exhibition was built to create awareness of the historical and architectural importance of the historic El Conde Street and will be open through March 2011 in order to signify the touristic and cultural influence of the center.

La Romana Toros Triumph in the Dominican Winter Baseball Championship
The La Romana Toros won the Dominican Winter Baseball Championship on Jan. 23, 2011. Referred to as The Sugarcane Series, this year’s victory tasted extremely sweet for the Toros, as they celebrate their second pennant. The Toros took advantage of the errors by the Estrellas of San Pedro and again wielded their superior bats to win 4-2, in a 5-game sweep to take the Dominican Winter Baseball crown. The team will head to represent the defending champion, Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean Baseball Series on Feb. 2-7, 2011 in Mayaguetz, Puerto Rico. http://espn.go.com/extra/baseball/domwl/schedule.

La Estancia Resort and Golf Course Opens
President Fernandez and Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the La Estancia tourism and residential area between La Romana and Bayahibe. The $120 million development is already made up of the 60 Las Brisas Apartments, 52 La Canada Townhomes, 12 par-3 golf residencies, 18 Las Villas Golf Cottages and 300 lots. La Estancia will eventually include a 27-hole golf course, 2,500 residencies, a new branch of the New England Association of School and Colleges, and a hotel. http://www.legr.com/eng/.

DR Ministry of Environment Opens EcoTour Routes
The DR Ministry of Environment, in conjunction with the OMSA government bus company, Santo Domingo East Municipality and the Ministry of Tourism, has opened the Organge Dominicana sponsored EcoTour Santo Domingo Este route. The tour costs RD$100 and includes free admission into three natural attractions, including the National Aquarium, the Los Tres Ojos cave and the Cachon de la Rubia springs. Using buses that run on natural gas, the tours depart every hour between 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from the Parque Juan Pablo II on Ave. Venezuela in eastern Santo Domingo.