“More than white sand beaches and crystal clear waters” – Interview with Francisco Javier García, Tourism Minister of the Dominican Republic

In the Minister Talk with TUI’s online media, the Tourism Minister talks about cruises, golf courses, adventures, and “Sancocho”.


How do you welcome tourists to Dominican Republic?

Francisco Javier García: Welcome to the land that has it all. We invite you to explore the unique offerings we are so proud to share with travelers: rest in one of many world-class accommodations lining our awe-inspiring coastline, try your hand at one of our 26 award-winning golf courses, indulge in both traditional meals and gourmet gastronomy, take advantage of endless opportunities for lush eco-tourism, experience an adrenaline rush on an adventurous excursion, take in the culture and history of Santo Domingo – the first city of the New World and much more. 

What is the special charm of Dominican Republic?

Francisco Javier García: While the Dominican Republic is known for its captivating white-sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and ample opportunities for relaxation and play at the waterfront, our warm and hospitable people are truly what make our country such a wonderful destination for travel and to live.

What are your favorite spots, places, beaches and / or festivals in Dominican Republic?

Francisco Javier García: I love everything about this country. Being the home to nine different Eco zones, 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of coastline, 21 Blue Flag accredited beaches, 86 ocean front holes of golf, a world-class gastronomic scene and the history and culture that comes with being the home of so many firsts in the new world it truly has it all.

What is your personal hint to the foreign visitors in the Dominican Republic? What should nobody miss when visiting your country?

Francisco Javier García: From the white sand beaches and luxury resorts, to pristine eco-reserves and adrenaline filled excursion to world-class golf and baseball, Dominican Republic truly does Have it All. This makes it impossible for visitors to fit everything into one trip. My personal advice to them would be to plan return visits, and take the time to explore each area of the Dominican Republic and learn first-hand what makes our country so incredible. 

What local dishes would you personally offer to a friend and visitor? 

Francisco Javier García: Our coastal cities offer more than just stunning views and water sports; they are also gastronomical hubs with cuisine sure to please every taste. Tourists can enjoy any food to suit their mood, from artisanal chocolate to fresh meat and seafood.

The most iconic dish in Dominican Republic is la bandera, meaning “the flag” in Spanish. This quintessential Dominican dish is made with rice, beans, fried bananas and stewed meat such as chicken, beef or pork. It comes served with a lettuce, tomato and cabbage salad and can easily be found throughout the country. “Sancocho” is another uniquely Dominican favorite. It is a recipe that takes time and has many variations, but all are incredible delicious.

What is the nicest time of year to visit the Dominican Republic?

Francisco Javier García: With consistent annual temperatures, the Dominican Republic is an all-year destination. The annual average temperature is 25 degrees Celsius (77°Fahrenheit) and rainfall is very seasonal.

How important is tourism in the Dominican Republic? Economic and social facts?

Francisco Javier García: Dominican Republic is the leader in tourism growth in the Caribbean. We concluded 2015 with our most impressive tourism numbers to date, receiving more than 5.6 million tourists between January and December – an increase of 8.9 percent over the same period in 2014. Also this year we are on a growth course: From January 2016 until July 2016 we have received 3.662.878 visitors, which represents an increase of 6,88 percent compared with the same period of the previous year.

Simultaneous our economy is growing as well. In the first half of 2016 the economy has grown by 7.4 percent. This is the strongest economic growth in Latin America and positions the Dominican Republic on first place. In 2016 the offers in the areas of "hotels, bars and restaurants" have increased by 4,9 percent. In the past three years 55 hotel projects were realized: the range of accommodation enhanced to 70,000 rooms. Currently in 2016, we have the construction of more than 1,500 rooms under contract to keep up with the trends in visitor demand. We are quite pleased with the tourism growth we’ve worked diligently to inspire and are on track to meeting our goal of 10 million annual visitors by 2023.

You had 5 million arrivals in 2015 and your biggest source markets are the US and Canada. Yet your country is an attractive holiday destination for Europeans as well. What is your strategy to further increase visitors from Europe?

Francisco Javier García: In order to position the Dominican Republic as number one Caribbean destination from the European source markets we develop a strategy with a perfect marketing mix targeting every market segment defined as priority, as well as the individual tourism regions. Implementing innovative promotion activities, targeted advertising campaigns, as well as strategic PR using all communication channels and social media we stimulate and increase sales to our destination. Last, but not least, our strategic co-marketing campaigns with our tour operators and airline partners guarantee the achievement of our goals.

By doing this our aim has been and remains constant: To position the Dominican Republic with all its diversity as the leading destination in the Caribbean and long-haul for travelers seeking an extraordinary holiday experience at the best value for money you can find in an exotic destination. We are blessed with the most beautiful beaches in regions like Punta Cana and Samaná; many sports facilities in the North by Puerto Plata, as well as an exhuberant nature in the center of the island with the highest mountain of the Caribbean, Pico Duarte. In Santo Domingo visitors can find a lot of cultural experiences with 300 buildings from the colonial era and UNESCO world heritage site. 3 times award-winners as the best golf-destination of Latin America and the Caribbean from the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), we are an attractive travel-destination for golf-players from all over Europe who want to enjoy the best views. Also the accommodation plays an important role for the Europeans: they are highly satisfied by our wide variety of hotels and resorts of various categories. With our increasing quantity of adult only and boutique hotels in the Dominican Republic we can fulfill the desire for quietness, comfort and luxury.

The Caribbean Sea is the biggest cruise ship destination in the work? Last year your country experiences double digit growth in cruise passengers’ visits. How important is the cruise business for Dominican Republic? What is the tourism minister doing to continue to the growth path of cruise tourism?

Francisco Javier García: With Amber Cove in Puerto Plata opening in 2015, cruise arrivals increased by 64 percent, coming in at 550,000 visitors. Since Amber Cove’s inauguration, an average of 5,000 cruise visitors arrive weekly to the area, shifting by season. Cruise is an incredible important business for Dominican Republic and one we are looking to grow. The Ministry of Tourism is planning to expand the cruise market beginning in December 2016 in Cap Cana.

Our corporate logo for TUI is a smile. What should local a visitor do to make local people smile? And what would locals do to make tourists smile?

Francisco Javier García: Visitors will learn quickly that we Dominicans are happy people that love to greet tourists with warm and welcoming smiles. We are incredible proud of our country and our culture and look-forward to opportunities to share it with visitors, which will hopefully bring a smile to their faces as well.