By Mallory Gafas
Among the lush, white-sand countries hit especially hard by Covid-19’s impact on global travel, one impressive success story has emerged: the Dominican Republic. Following an exceptional post-pandemic recovery, the country has been recognized for the second year in a row as the world’s No. 1 tourism destination by leading travel intelligence provider, ForwardKeys.
Its 2023 Global Travel Trends Report found that the Dominican Republic’s tourism-dependent economy not only bounced back with exceptional speed, it is now receiving travel investments at rates that exceed pre-pandemic levels. The country welcomed 14% more international visitors in 2023 than it did in 2019—marking its best tourism year on record, with more than 10 million travelers for the first time in history.
ForwardKeys attributes the success of the Dominican Republic’s tourism sector to a well-coordinated, multi-pronged campaign that collectively drove its unprecedented recovery.
“We have to highlight the marketing strategy that [the Dominican Republic] is carrying out to reach premium markets,” said Juan Gomez Garcia, senior director of intelligence at ForwardKeys, as he announced the prestigious recognition in London.
As the pandemic closed borders and shuttered tourism operations worldwide, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism began developing a robust plan for the future. Their diverse strategy deployed effective destination marketing that piqued inspiration and anticipation for travel once restrictions were lifted, used distinctive measures to target remote workers whose numbers are now surging, and adopted unique methods to attract valuable investments from hospitality and travel companies in addition to consumers.
“These and [the country’s] other strategies are having a direct impact on the increase in arrivals this year versus previous years,” Garcia said.
At the helm of this strategic recovery, Dominican Republic tourism minister David Collado also credits the country’s inventive techniques to finding new ways to capitalize on non-traditional markets and creativity in promoting new segments in luxury, sports and wellness, among others.
“Reinstalling traveler confidence must be the priority for all tourism destinations,” said Collado as he accepted the distinction from ForwardKeys in November. “The consumer attitude towards brands and destinations is changing—something tourism authorities need to [account] for to give them full advantage of recovery once travelers begin to plan their next adventure.”
That innovative outlook could be key to the Dominican Republic’s thriving return to the world tourism stage. Collado’s dynamic approach appears to have tapped into a clear post-pandemic reality: traveler behavior is evolving.
ForwardKeys research has uncovered a number of new trends in the aftermath of Covid-19, like a dramatic rise in urban tourism, significantly stronger preferences for sustainable travel and an increase in family adventures.
Proactively identifying and seizing opportunities from these and other changes in global tourism has led to the Dominican Republic’s recognition as a premier destination for anyone with any interests, at any time. As a result, airline ticket bookings for January-March of 2024 are already 56% higher than during the same period in 2019, according to ForwardKeys.
For Collado, the profitable numbers mean far less than the growing love and appreciation for his picturesque home country.
“Being number one in the world, an island in the Caribbean with 10 million inhabitants, fills us with pride and satisfaction,” he said.