The Dominican Republic Has Seen Record-Setting Tourism Numbers. Here's Why

A risky COVID-19 strategy paid off, boosting the island's economy

Wooden pier to a tropical beach, Saona island

Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Have you noticed that everyone is taking a trip to the Dominican Republic lately? The island nation has always been a popular vacation destination. Still, visitor numbers boomed to all-time highs while other Caribbean countries struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. By February 2021, around seven months after borders reopened, flight bookings to the Dominican Republic surpassed 2019 levels and have only continued to grow, according to insights from the Mastercard Economics Institute 2022 Travel Trend Report.

The boom in bookings is due, in large part, to a risky approach toward luring travelers. Instead of enforcing masking, vaccination, and testing requirements for visitors, officials focused on vaccinations and mask compliance among service industry workers. “We knew it was a risk, and we wanted to take it,” Jacqueline Mora, deputy minister of tourism, told the New York Times in January. 

The risk paid off—big time. Bookings have stayed far above 2019 levels and have seen more than 100 percent increases in April, May, and June of 2021 and in April 2022. In terms of revenue, that totals out to more than $5.7 billion in 2021 while maintaining a relatively low rate of COVID 19-related deaths. Compare that with Canada, a historically popular vacation destination for U.S. travelers. The country took a more tempered approach to reopen its borders, waiting until summer 2021 to welcome vaccinated tourists. Flight bookings immediately started to increase, but by April 2022, numbers were still lagging 17 percent below comparable 2019 levels despite Canada being the second most popular destination for North American travelers.

pedestrians walking down a street in Santo Domingo, Dominican republic. there are white colonial-era buildings with balconies on both sides of the street
pawel.gaul / Getty Images

Regardless of how effective safety measures like showing proof of vaccination may or may not be when it comes to curbing infection rates, many Americans are tired of pandemic-era restrictions—especially when they’re on vacation, so it comes as no surprise that the Dominican Republic has become such a hot destination for travelers from the U.S.

After two years of a pandemic, people feel desperate for a vacation. So desperate that even rampant inflation won’t stop them. Or at least not entirely. While a WalletHub survey revealed that inflation had impacted travel for 58 percent of Americans, 41 percent more people would be willing to go further into debt to take a vacation in 2022 than last year. “After two-plus years of pandemic living, many Americans are clinging to the idea of making up for lost time, and if some interest charges and possibly a late fee are part of the price of making a long-awaited getaway happen, so be it,” said Delaney Simchuk, an analyst for WalletHub.

This summer is shaping up to be one of blow-out vacations, setting up destinations with minimal COVID-19 restrictions to rake in millions of dollars.

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  1. Mastercard Economics Institute. "Travel 2022: Trends & Transitions." May 18, 2022.

  2. New York Times. "Why Is Everyone Going to the Dominican Republic?" Jan. 27, 2022.