“The Dominican Republic Has it All”, is the national slogan that intends to map out the diversity of the tourism offer of the island.
According to the Central Bank, from January and November of 2018, the country welcomed 5.9 million tourists, an increase of 6.3% in relation to the previous year. That total scales to 6.5 million when one includes non-residents and resident visitors.
As reported by the Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic (Asonahores) last September, tourism represents a staggering 20% of the GDP that impacts Transportation, Communications, Construction, Real State, Finance, Agriculture, and other sectors and subsectors of the Dominican economy.
Moreover, the “Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean 2018” report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal), revealed that we are the main destination of foreign direct investment in the Caribbean, which accounts to 3,570 million dollars, almost 50% of the total investments in the region. Tourism received the biggest portion with 700 million dollars followed by Real State, directly connected, with 546 million in foreign direct investments.
In 2018 there was a foreign policy twist with the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, the largest traveler market in the world, a move that has the potential to reach at least 2% of their 145 million travelers, as noted by the Deputy Administrator of the Civil Administration of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Shiqing, after signing an Air Services Agreement with the Dominican Chancellor, Miguel Vargas Maldonado.
Righteously, the Government of President Danilo Medina and the private sector have put tourism at the highest priority, in a quest to attract 10 million tourism by 2022.
The challenge is set to combine “sun and beach tourism” with a sport, ecotourism, historical, cruise, cultural, adventure, and a medical travel offer, in which the latter made substantial improvements to contribute to fulfilling such a goal.
FITUR 2019: Improvements for medical travel
In the last week of January, the 39th FITUR International Tourism Fair – FITUR 2019 – was held and presented the Dominican Republic as a partner country, a destination that has not stopped growing in the last decade and that currently stands as the tourism leader of the Caribbean.
The event is described as a “global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading fair for the receptive and issuing markets of Ibero-America.”
The strong language, cultural and historical links with Spain, as well as the good commercial relations and air connectivity, makes us a destination full of opportunities, in which tourism represent 60 to 70% of the total Spanish investments in the island.
Implemented in 2016, a FITUR partnership gives the participants the opportunity to join a program that offers to broadcast their destination through their communication strategy.
From a medical travel standpoint, the Dominican Republic made three major improvements to best serve those looking for cost-effective and high-quality medical services.
FITUR Health launched its 5th edition within the fair and in collaboration with Spaincares and B2B Medical Encounters.
The Dominican Health Tourism Association -ADTS- led by its president Dr. Alejandro Cambiaso, participated for the first time in such meeting, as part of the delegation invited by the Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Javier Garcia, creating the first knot of a bond that promises to continue over the years.
Surely, the medical travel industry has a solid ground to work with given the experience and the overall state of tourism of the country.
2. Agreement with Spaincares
Tourism and health are natural allies that together strengthen innovation, competitiveness and represent new opportunities for sustainable development, defends Dr. Cambiaso, a preventive health expert that has been working for years in developing a health offer that combines safety, local and international standards and accreditations, quality, and best practices from top medical institutions.
Spaincares and ADTS signed an agreement to promote the exchange of knowledge, the flow of bilateral medical travelers and best practices.
Spaincares offers a global service from the patient’s home until their return and follow-ups. They provide health services in hospitals, spas or centers of dependency, as well as solutions for accommodation and other complementary tourism activities, aimed at covering all the needs of patients during their trip.
The agreement opens the door to Spanish or Dominicans that live in Spain that wants to travel to the Dominican Republic, and vice-versa.
It also shows the need to continue supporting public-private partnerships to increase investment, job creation, and the diversity in the tourism offer.
3. First health operator
One of the highlights at FITUR 2019 was the launch of DR Health Travel, the first specialized medical travel tour operator, who also serves as an agency and carries medical, pharmaceutical, and medical devices events, and others.
An entrepreneur named Marieny Infante carries a very interesting venture that brings a lot of weight to the value chain and arrives in a great moment for medical travel.
Currently, we are at the 15th spot from a total of 41 countries, and rank 5th as a medical travel industry with the most potential, based on the Medical Tourism Index report.
Medical travel is steadily expanding in the Dominican Republic. New infrastructure, new businesses, startups, and activities related to international patients are becoming regular.
A recent example was the accreditation of the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program or HFAP, granted to the Espaillat Cabral Institute and the first time given to a center outside the United States. The HFAP is authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to evaluate compliance with the highest standards of quality and good service, which represents an achievement for the institute and our Country Brand.
FITUR 2019 gave the country exposure to thousands of participants who for the first time were informed about medical travel. If the goal is to reach 10 million tourists within the next three years, we are on the right path.