Hotel development in the Dominican Republic shows no sign of slowing. At year-end 2018, room inventory for the island totaled 80,256, including 12 new properties that added 4,365 units to the count. And there's more on the way. According to STR, an additional 6,200 hotel rooms are in the development pipeline, making the D.R. one of the Caribbean's hottest tourism-development hot spots, right up there with Dominica, Jamaica and St. Lucia, which all have major projects currently under construction.
Last month, the Spanish chain Meliá Hotels International officially welcomed its seventh property on the island, the 540-room all-inclusive Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, with an inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony during the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange conference. While this new property is the third for the island under Melía's Paradisus brand, Grand Reserve is the first of its kind within the portfolio offering luxurious amenities and dining experiences, including 14 restaurants and bars.
According to the National Association of Hotels and Tourism of the Dominican Republic, 11 other properties are on track to open in the next three years. Marriott International said it will invest US$350 million to open three luxury hotels in Puerto Plata, one each from its Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels and Luxury Collection brands. According to Ritz-Carlton president and chief executive officer, Herve Humler, the plan is to target upper-echelon luxury travelers and "bring them back to the Dominican Republic."
Major projects now being built include the US$100 million, 93-acre Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, the company's first new resort in the Caribbean in 25 years. The property, scheduled to open by the end of this year, will be the first full Exclusive Collection resort in the Americas and will act as the new flagship hotel in the region. In November 2018, Palace Resorts broke ground on the US$600 million all-inclusive 2,149-room Moon Palace Punta Cana resort in the district's Macao area. The hotel, set to open in 2021, will feature 21 dining outlets, an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course and a convention center.
Earlier this month, the Mexico-based Excellence Group officially broke ground on the 450-suite Finest Punta Cana resort in the Uvero Alto section of Punta Cana, the company's third all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic. And, word on the street has it that Four Seasons, which currently has three resorts elsewhere in the Caribbean, is getting ready to hang out its shingle on the island.
Visitor arrivals to the Dominican Republic reached 6.5 million in 2018, a 6.2 percent increase over 2017, according to the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. The island will have to keep up its rapid pace of hotel development if it expects to meet a stated goal of welcoming 10 million annual stay-over tourists by 2023.