One Caribbean island's hotel building boom
The Dominican Republic appears to have more development on the drawing boards, in construction, ready to debut or recently opened than any other Caribbean destination.
Room inventory totaled nearly 70,000 rooms at the end of February, including four new properties that added 1,754 units to the total count, according to STR.
The National Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic, or Asonahores, confirmed 11 properties will be added to the inventory in the next three years, totaling 15,000 rooms.
Every week brings an announcement of another ribbon-cutting ceremony, or a photo of a groundbreaking with hotel executives and developers holding shovels and flanked by Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina and tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia.
At the recent Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange conference in Punta Cana, three more hotels announced plans to invest, expand and update properties: Be Live Hotels with its seventh property; Amhsa Marina's investment of more than $25 million in updates to its luxury Casa Marina Beach & Reef hotel in Sosua; and Viva Wyndham's expansion of its adults-only Viva Wyndham V Samana.
"Hotel activity represents more than 8% of the Dominican Republic's GDP, amounting to more than $840 billion in income for the country in 2018," Encarna Pinero, CEO of Grupo Pinero, parent company of Bahia Principe, said at the official grand reopening of the adults-only Luxury Bahia Principe Ambar in Punta Cana, following a $26 million investment in extensive renovations.
Pinero said that the hotel sector "is essential to the growth of this country."
Perhaps the pace of development is directly related to the country's strong arrival numbers. Javier Garcia said recently that the D.R. "outpaces the global average of annual tourist arrivals. The country is continuing to see an upward trend regarding tourism."
Statistics bear him out. The D.R. topped the list in 2018 of Caribbean destinations that welcomed the highest number of stayover and cruise visitors: 6.5 million, up 6.2% over 2017, according to the Central Bank of the D.R.
Keeping track of what's recently opened and what's soon to open requires a detailed spreadsheet, but here's a brief recap of some of the hotel companies on the move:
The Palladium Hotel Group debuted its 115-suite TRS Cap Cana Hotel in November, joining its TRS Turquesa Hotel, also in Punta Cana.
The adults-only Sanctuary Cap Cana celebrated its reopening in January following a $44 million redo that added 140 more suites.
Marriott International plans to open three hotels under The Luxury Collection, W Hotels and Ritz-Carlton Reserve brands in Puerto Plata on the island's north coast, representing an investment of more than $350 million.
Marriott also has begun construction on its first AC Hotel in the country, in downtown Santiago.
Presidential Suites Cabarete in Puerto Plata opened its first phase in December.
The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real by Melia, the Spanish hotel company's newest resort in the Bavaro beach area in Puna Cana, welcomed its first guests that same month.
Construction crews are hard at work at Playa Hotels and Resorts' 750-room Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Cap Cana complex.
The former Dreams La Romana, rebranded last fall as the Hilton La Romana under Playa's expanded partnership with Hilton, is going through renovations.
Hampton by Hilton Punta Cana Airport and Commercial Center has broken ground adjacent to the Punta Cana airport; it will be the first Hilton-branded hotel in the area.
The $100 million Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, an hour's drive from Punta Cana, is the company's first new resort in the Caribbean in 25 years and the first to join the brand's Exclusive Collection. That property is set to open in late November in an area new to tourist development.
But it probably won't be alone for long. Four Seasons is expected to hang its shingle in that same area by 2021.
Correction and clarification: An earlier version of this report incorrectly attributed end-of-year room counts to STR; those numbers were from a statement from the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.
The report was updated with numbers from STR that reflect the number of rooms in the country as of February.