Out of habit, when you talk about sports in the Dominican Republic, you think of baseball. Not surprisingly, according to Major League Baseball (MLB), after the United States, the Caribbean nation leads the list of countries and territories with the largest number of players on active and inactive Major League rosters. It has a total of 99 players.
However, when state agencies such as the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (BCRD) take stock of the national economy, that sporting activity does not appear. At least not explicitly. One that does is golf, although associated with tourism.
Revenues from the tourism sector, in 2022, totaled some US$8,406.5 million and of that total, at least US$400 million were generated by sports-related activities, as explained to elDinero by the executive director of Marketing at Grupo Puntacana, Manuel Sajour.
The fact that the Dominican Republic has more than 30 golf courses, of which some 18 are professional, makes the country “the best destination for golf tourism in the Caribbean”, as reported by the Center for Export and Investment of the Republic. Dominican. In fact, it has been selected six times as the “Best Golf Destination in Latin America and the Caribbean” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).
As quantity is not always proportional to quality, one factor that drives these sports venues is that they were designed by some world-renowned architects. They include Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Nick Faldo, Gary Player and Robert Trent Sr.
The impact of golf courses in the Dominican Republic can even be seen in the statistics. This is shown by the data on the motives or reasons why travelers chose the country as a tourist destination.
At least 0.1% of the 181,329 foreigners who entered the Puerto Plata International Airport in 2022 stated that it was “the golf courses”. That figure increases to 1.1% of the 4,852 tourists who entered through the La Romana International Airport last year. In both cases they are only citizens of the United States.
In 2021, the figures are similar. 0.1% of arrivals at the Punta Cana International Airport that year were for this reason. Although it may seem like a tiny percentage compared to the 7,942,710 foreigners who arrived in the Dominican Republic in 2022, according to Sajour, the profile of golf players should be taken into account.
“The spending of this type of tourist is 3.5 times higher than the average for a regular tourist. To give you an idea, a normal tourist spends about US$133 per day during his stay,” he said. He details that players and those interested in sports spend an average of US$500 to US$550 and that figure can increase to US$700 in the eastern zone, he says. This is due to the type of golf courses.
It also indicates that the tourist who spends up to US$500 visits a minimum of 3 fields. As a result, this “standard” or profile of tourists who visit the country encourages the sector to improve the hotel offer.
He explains that, currently, the Dominican Republic is receiving higher class and standard tourist complexes. On the other hand, the global golf tourism market, in 2022 alone, represented US$4.93 billion and is expected to grow to US$6.07 billion in 2027.
That it is a world-class sport is something that even the state is aware of. It can be seen in Law 158-01 for the Promotion of Tourism Development, which exonerates 100% of the payment of taxes for Dominican companies that invest in certain areas.
In article 3 of said law, it indicates that the “construction and/or operation of tourist infrastructures, such as aquariums, restaurants, golf courses, sports facilities and any other that can be classified as an establishment belonging to tourist activities” will enjoy the exemption. ”.
One of the many functions of the Ministry of Tourism is to promote the Dominican Republic as a tourist destination. As detailed by the BCRD, “these efforts, focused on turning the country into a safe and attractive tourist destination, have favored international recognition and have allowed the Dominican Republic to remain the leading destination in terms of tourist arrivals in the region of the Insular Caribbean and Central America”.
Golf, by itself, exposed the Caribbean country to more than 7.8 billion impressions in 2023, through the PGA Tour Event that took place at the beginning of the year. “In an event where the Dominican Republic is placed in the world games in more than 1,000 million viewers through the different giant sports-television networks in the world,” says Sajour.
Some of those television channels that broadcast the event live for more than 12 hours were CBS, Fox Sport, ESPN, among others. “They have their broadcasts in different countries around the world, let’s say 220 countries to give you an idea,” he added.
But this sport not only takes the Dominican Republic to other borders through the traditional means. According to data provided to this medium, the so-called Corales Championship had a growth of 22% compared to the 2022 edition. The fields and potential of the country were exposed to more than 5.53 million unique digital users.
The portal had more than 13.4 million digital visits. It even had coverage in more than 164 countries in 27 languages. Nationwide, it had 26,777 viewers. According to the same data provided, the event in the eastern part of the country mobilized more than 20,000 vehicles in four days. The media impact, crazy, involved 3 million on television.
According to figures from Grupo Puntacana, the fifth edition of the Corales Puntacana Championship PGA TOUR in 2022 had the participation of 120 players who competed for a purse of US$3.7 million. It was the “highest amount in the history of sports in the Dominican Republic” and had approximately 25,000 attendees.
The sixth edition of the tournament, which was held from March 20 to 26, 2023, as part of a 4-year extension to 2025, also coincided with record numbers of tourist arrivals. During the first quarter, the arrival of non-resident passengers to the country through the different international air terminals was 2,076,161 tourists.
This figure represents a year-on-year growth of 21.1%, equivalent to 361,214 more visitors compared to the same period in 2022. In terms of the distribution of the total number of visitors received, 85.6% correspond to foreign travelers (1,777,166 passengers) who chose the country as tourist destination and the remaining 14.4% to non-resident Dominicans (298,995 passengers).
“We have focused a lot on how golf and high-impact, high-status sporting events contribute to the internationalization of the Dominican Republic, taking it to other borders, to other countries, to new audiences,” says Sojour.
Finally, the local interest generated by the sport stands out. “From a local point of view, we must highlight a large number of people who participate in these events. In other words, there is real interest at the local level for this type of sport, ”he said.
When asked why the Dominican Republic has world-class golf courses, but not other sports, Sajour limited himself to explaining that it is all about business. “It’s true, as a baseball country, the platform could be improved with a world-class stadium for people to come see our great baseball players.” He explained that when, from Puntacana, they began to promote golf and the PGA Championship “we knew that we were not going to have an income from (immediate) business.”
In this sense, he assures that “we did it as support at the local level and to take the Dominican Republic to the world as a viable golf destination, and we have achieved it”, likewise, he said that “if we are going to wait for that to return to me 2 pesos, they will never have any doubts”.
He explained the above as follows: “We as private companies (golf, ball, or any sport) often have to invest to position the country. And we don’t always expect the two pesos to return, and if they do, that’s great! but if they don’t come, we are helping the positioning of the country, and the promotion of the sport”. In July 2022, the Oscar de la Renta Tennis Center will open two new professional padel courts.
“I want to highlight the great boom and potential that sports tourism has in the area, this year more than 50 sporting events have been held in Puntacana,” said the president and CEO of Grupo Puntacana, Frank Elías Rainieri, in a statement.