This Wednesday, July 1, after a closure of more than 100 days of the borders, Dominican airports and hotels will reopen to a world now defined by a pandemic. Sightseeing will no longer be the same.
For the Dominican Republic, tourism activity represents 8% of GDP and last year it contributed 26% of the income in dollars that the country received, some 7,468 million dollars, according to official data. These are results that will take time to return.
The reopening will be timid. This is expected from airport terminals and hotels. Today, when the José Francisco Peña Gómez Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo begins to receive passengers, it will operate at barely a third of its normality. Of the 45 to 50 daily flights that it regularly received before the COVID-19 pandemic, this July 1, 14 flights will pass through the terminal with origin or destination to New York, Boston, Miami, Orlando, San Juan and Madrid, according to the AILA programming.
Meanwhile, at the Punta Cana airport, from which the country receives the most tourists, the outlook changed in recent days compared to what was expected a month ago. According to the itinerary published on its website, for the reopening day, three flights will be received from San Juan, New York and Fort Lauderdale. Progressively other routes will be incorporated, almost all from the United States, and at the end of the month it is expected to receive about 20 flights from the United States, Canada and Spain.
The country has kept its borders, its airports and ports closed since March 20, a measure ordered by the Government to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Now the return of tourists will not only depend on the Dominican borders being reopened, but also on the situation in other countries.
The United States has not prevented the departure of citizens from that country, which has now become one of the epicenters of COVID-19 in the world, with 2.63 million confirmed cases and 129,545 deaths, according to data from Johns University Hopkins.
More than 40% of tourists who regularly visit the Dominican Republic arrive from North America, and it is in this public that the tourism sector focuses its hopes.
From Russia, France and Argentina 11% of visitors arrive. Flights to these countries are not scheduled to Punta Cana, at least not for the first week of reopening. The Santo Domingo airport will receive flights from France, but they do not appear from Russia or Argentina.
The airport experience will be less congested. At least that is the goal of the airport authorities that in recent days published the protocol for the country’s airports.
The document, authorized by the Civil Aviation Board, defines the rules that go far beyond the mandatory use of a mask. Passengers arriving in the country will have their temperature taken and, if it is above 38 degrees Celsius, they will undergo rapid tests to detect COVID-19. If positive, the special sanitary protocols will be activated and the passenger will be isolated in an area specially prepared for this at the airport. To collect luggage, as in all areas of the terminal, the distances that passengers must maintain between each other will be marked.
The first thing is that the processes are increased, so that travelers must arrive three hours earlier at the airport, and must do so already with their check carried out on the airline’s website or, in case that option is not available, they must print a copy of the ticket.
The protocol states that only passengers with tickets may enter the terminal. Companions will not be accepted, unless it is for people with disabilities or minors traveling alone. Inside the airport, travelers will not be able to remove their mask.
Hotels, like restaurants, will operate according to a protocol that was defined by the Ministry of Tourism and that was officially announced, even among hoteliers, less than 12 hours after the reopening.
The protocol recommends that large hotels not exceed 30% of their rooms in July and then expand it to 50% in August and bring it to 75% in December. That is for those who have more than 500 rooms, so that guests do not crowd in common areas of the hotel complexes.