By Caribbean News Global contributor
ROSEAU, Dominica – Dominica is becoming the Caribbean destination of choice for the ideal vacation, while the ministry of tourism’s goal is to ensure visitors have the best experience on the island.
Recently, two five-star hotels were opened: The Cabrits Resort Kempinski in Portsmouth and Jungle Bay Resort and Spa in Soufriere. Several other five-star hotels are currently under construction contributing to an increase in the number of persons visiting the island.
According to the minister for tourism and culture, Senator Robert Tonge, – a new authority will be put in place to promote nature isle tourism.
“The Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government will establish the Dominica National Tourism Authority (DNTA), through the restructuring of the tourism board, into a more strategic, better equipped and prepared entity. The DNTA will lead and support market diversification and penetration, new tourism business development and investment opportunities,” Tonge continued.
“We want to ensure that when people come to Dominica, it’s all about an amazing experience. We have the most centenarians in the Caribbean, which means that our people eat [health] fresh foods. We have waterfalls, river bathing, our lovely rum punches; all these things help to extend the lives of our people. So, Dominica is truly a unique experience very different from many other countries,” he said.
The minister referred to the opening of the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, as “an achievement of the government that Dominicans are proud of”, adding; “We are very proud as a people of what has been accomplished here. That too is also part of the vision of our prime minister, Dr Roosevelt Skerrit. His vision was to use the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme to allow investors to come in and invest in Dominica through these properties and increase economic activity in our country. We have quite a number of people who come to Dominica, but at the same time, we wanted to attract a different type of clientele who would obviously have a lot more disposable income, which would allow our people in the country to benefit.
“So, his vision has come to reality; although many people thought that it would not happen. I remember four and a half years ago, there was just a cleared piece of swampy land but, Range Developments management team had a vision and today that vision is a reality. We are looking forward to some amazing new things from them in terms of another property,” he noted.
Dominica is not only known for its waterfalls and lush vegetation but for one of the world’s biggest night-time event, the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) which is held on the last weekend in October every year, attracting several visitors to the island.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of Discover Dominica Authority (DDA), Colin Piper stated that this period is one of the best for Dominica’s economy as visitors are booked into hotels and money is spent on food and beverage, attractions and activities on the island.
“By all accounts, the WCMF has been a great success. I don’t have all the final details yet, but certainly, I want to indicate that for the same period, Friday [before the WCMF] to Saturday, we had close to 6,800 people come into our island by ferry and aircraft. This represents a 34 percent increase over the same period last year.
“So, there are some positives. We do not have the final figures yet for the patronage, but anybody who was there would acknowledge that certainly, the patrons to the festival were more than last year. Therefore, in these two avenues, we certainly want to indicate that Dominica needs to tap itself on the back and accept its kudos, as it relates to our contribution to the Caribbean’s calendar of events and festivals,” Piper said.
He informed that DDA continues to market Dominica as the destination of choice while noting the different hotels which are opened and those expected to open soon; namely, Rosalie Bay Eco Resorts expected to open in February 2020; Sanctuary Villas, and expansion at Secret Bay residences are high on DDA’s list.
Piper is confidence that the current strategy will increase the number of visitors to Dominica.
“Most recently, we represented Dominica at the World Travel Market, which is one of the largest trade shows in the world. We had over 42 meetings with travel agents, tour operators, interviewers, influencers, all of which were interested in learning what Dominica has to offer”, Piper said.
Following the passage of hurricane Maria in September 2017, the government of Dominica spent more than $6 million to rehabilitate sites that were destroyed by the storm.
In January of 2018, Dominica welcomed its first cruise ship, a mere four months after one of the deadliest storms the country has ever seen. In October, the 2019/2020 cruise season was officially opened and there will be an increase of 30,000 passengers.
“We have 160 calls scheduled for this year 2019/2020, and the estimate for passengers at this point is approximately 288,000. That is a 14 percent increase over the number of passengers that we brought into the destination last year 2018/2019. We continue to grow in terms of the cruise product.
“It’s important to understand the difference of about 30,000 people who disembark in terms of how many go on tours and the average spend on the island. This augurs well for vendors, tour operators, tour guides, taxi drivers, and all the stakeholders that are involved in the cruise industry,” Piper explained.
Emphasis is not only being placed at the port of entry. The government of Dominica has spent over $1.75 million to upgrade the Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth and the Roseau Ferry Terminal. The latter was damaged by hurricane Maria, making it an ideal opportunity to ‘build back better’ and stronger.
According to the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Dominica Air and Sea Port Authority, Benoit Bardouille: “Gradually, we started rebuilding and refitting the facilities. We remodelled the facility and improved services to accommodate approximately 80,000 people who utilise the facility annually.
“The new port of entry for Val Ferry is the Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth. The rehabilitation of the port was a priority, investing $2.5 million to rehabilitate the pier and the building. Dominica prides itself on ensuring that travellers are comfortable upon entry into the country,” Bardouille said.