With open borders and a vast cultural wealth many Americans find hard to resist, Latin America is one of the trendiest vacation spots in the post-crisis world.
Comprising parts of North America, numerous Caribbean archipelagos, and most of South America, the ‘Latin World’ shares a common heritage, owing it to Spanish-Portuguese colonization efforts and the development of a distinct culture featuring both post-colonial and pre-Columbian elements.
But where exactly is the trendiest place to visit in Latin America? While many would be quick to reply Brazil or Colombia, they are not among the region’s most popular destinations right now:
The Dominican Republic Races Ahead Of Brazil And Colombia
Famous for its pristine white-sand beaches, turquoise-colored ocean, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Dominican Republic (often shortened to simply DR) has officially surpassed some of Latin America’s biggest players in terms of tourist arrivals.
While it is yet to challenge the all-too-powerful Mexico, the unchallenged King of Tourism hosting over 30 million guests, the much smaller tropical Caribbean nation is already registering twice the number of visitors both Brazil and Colombia are posting.
The data was presented by Latinometrics, a Twitter account gathering information on Latin American countries and trends. According to them, the DR has reached more than 7 million tourists in 2022 alone, compared to Brazil’s less-than-impressive 3.5 million.
This is truly quite a feat, seeing that Brazil boasts numerous nonstop flight connections to the United States, it is home to Latin America’s largest hub in Guarulhos-Sao Paulo, and the tourist offer is comparatively more vast. After all, it is a continent-sized country.
The DR, on the other hand, does not even have its own island.
It shares the island of Hispaniola with the underdeveloped nation of Haiti, controlling its Western half, and although it is 175 times smaller than Latin America’s largest nation and biggest economy, it still outpaced Brazil in tourism recovery.
Colombia also lagged behind, recording 4.5 million visitors between January and December 2022. This year alone, the DR has hosted over 5 million guests, and we are still only in early July (as stated by Tourism Minister David Collado).
The question is: why?
Why Are Other Countries Lagging Behind The DR?
If you’ve been following recent developments in Latin America recently, you will know the subcontinent has not only struggled with moving forward from COVID, being among the last geopolitical groups to drop all restrictions, but on top of that, it’s suffering from instability and crime surges.
Earlier this year, Peru was forced to shut down again over massive protests that rocked the nation and led to the closure of airports and even the legendary Machu Picchu. This has now been resolved, but the threat of further disruption remains due to the country’s ongoing political rifts.
In Brazil, massive demonstrations in the wake of new President Lula’s election resulted in the invasion and depredation of the Brazilian Congress and numerous other government buildings this January, which, coupled with the country’s soaring crime rates, could have discouraged vacationers from visiting.
As if that were not enough, Brazil has dropped its COVID restrictions only recently.
Throughout 2022, Americans were still expected to present a negative COVID test or be vaccinated in order to be granted entry.
As a result, restriction-wary travelers deliberately avoided Brazil, and they have yet to return.
Colombia is no exception, with social curbs being fully lifted only this year, while the DR had axed pandemic-era regulations a year earlier.
In Colombia’s case, the recent reports of crime plaguing the cities of Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena have also compromised the country’s recovery.
The DR Is Actively Promoting Tourism
Responding to Latinometrics, Dominican presidential spokesman Homero Figueroa suggested the DR’s fast-paced rebound can be attributed to its non-restrictive approach to tourism during the pandemic, as well as ‘open sky’ agreements signed between the Government and third countries.
Last year, more than 20 low-cost weekly flights were added between the U.S. and the DR, bringing Americans closer to the dream sunny getaway in Punta Cana, or the major cultural and financial center that is Santo Domingo.
As Figueroa offered, these factors not only boost tourism but they promote a ‘bright economic future’.
As for safety, the Dominican Republic is surely no Iceland, but it is worlds apart from its closest neighbor of Haiti, even though they exist on the same island.
Resort zones are surprisingly safe, as are tourist towns, and though caution is urged when exploring lesser-known spots not usually frequented by tourists, petty crime and urban violence rates are generally higher in suburban districts – a majority of vacationers fulfill their trip hassle-free.
The DR is a Level 2 destination, which means the State Department believes Americans should maintain a high level of situational awareness when visiting, but avoiding travel is not necessary.
Recent reports say the DR could reach its milestone 10 millionth visitor this year for the first time since tracking began.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com