The Dominican Republic is the second largest nation in the Caribbean.
It occupies the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles, with Haiti occupying the western portion. To the west are Jamaica and Cuba; Puerto Rico is east beyond the 112-kilometer (70-mile) Mona Passage; and the southern tip of Florida is about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away. Situated in the heart of the region between North and South America, the country is bathed by the Caribbean Sea on the south coast and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. With a land area in excess of 48,000 square kilometers (18,533 square miles), it is larger than the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, all the Virgin Islands and the entire French West Indies put together. The Dominican Republic is approximately twice the size of the U.S. state of New Hampshire.
According to the National Population and Family Council (CONAPOFA), the Dominican population is at 9.3 million and will reach 9.5 million by July of 2008. According to CONAPOFA the DR population is predominantly urban. The capital city and province of Santo Domingo is the most populated urban area. The report specifies that in the DR there are 4,696,621 women and 4,667,031 men. The average annual population growth rate is 1.47%. The population is 50% male and 50% female with a median age of 24 years. The national language is Spanish, Roman Catholics account for 95% of the population, and the ethnic mix is Mixed 73%, European decent 16%, and African decent 11%. The life expectancy at birth is over 71 years.
Although the country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy’s largest employer due to growth in tourism and free trade zones. The US economy accounts for 87% of export revenues. Other markets include Canada, Western Europe and Japan. In September 2005, the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement was ratified.
The country exports free-trade-zone manufactured products (garments, footwear, etc.), nickel, sugar, coffee, cacao, and tobacco, and it imports foodstuffs, petroleum, industrial raw materials, and capital goods. On August 5, 2004, the Dominican Republic signed a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and five Central American countries to integrate into the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement. Foreign direct investment (FDI) was $309 million in 2003; although final figures are not yet available, it is expected to be about $100 million for 2004, much of it directed at the tourism sector, free trade zones, and telecommunication sector. Remittances were more than $2 billion in 2003.
A new airport is opening in the fall of 2006 in the northern region which will not only allow the island to handle increased tourism, it will also include the first runway which will allow large European flights to land. These flights currently land in San Juan, Puerto Rico and then smaller flights shuttle the tourists to the island. This is in addition to the other 13 airports with paved runways and 19 airports with unpaved runways.
According to 2004 Central Bank statistics, in 2004 the best performing sectors were: communications (18.3%), sugar production (6.7%), hotels & restaurants (4.6%), mining (3.7%), and farming (3.5%). The light manufacturing sector showed improvement, moving from a decline of 3.1% in 2003 to growth of 0.7% in 2004, due primarily to the installation of 40 new companies. Communications growth is attributed to the healthy mobile phone market. Despite the effects of Hurricane Jeane in September, the tourism industry quickly bounced back. The Central Bank reports 2,990 hotel rooms were added in 2004, for a country total of 58,932 rooms. Commerce contracted significantly in 2004, going from a 8.2% growth in 2003 to a 0.2% growth in 2004.
Tourism is today the Dominican Republic's primary industry. The country offers a wide choice of accommodations at city, mountain and beach resorts and hotels. Palm-fringed beaches, adventure sports, casinos, year-round events and a rich history and culture, as well as its greatest asset - the hospitable Dominican people, make this country a prime vacation spot for Europeans, North Americans and Latin Americans.
The primary language in the public schools is Spanish. Private schools normally teach in English, but they are bilingual and kids from all over the world are enrolled. There are private schools in or near every major city on the island. Schools which are accredited by the Dominican Ministry of Education offer certificates which are valid for entrance to Dominican, European, and U.S. universities.
Tourism is concentrated in the coastal beach towns to the north, east, southeast, southwest and in the capital city of Santo Domingo. However, there has been an explosion of ecotourism in the interior of the country, with a multiplicity of excursions offering hiking, caving, biking through mountains and countryside. Tourism was up over 12% last year which was prompted by increased international advertising. In addition, the international community is prompting development of more permanent living arrangements on the island. The country has been long discovered by the European community where many French, German, and Italians come to buy a second home.
Luxury living with full accommodations and services in a controlled, community environment is a huge opportunity. This includes access to grocery and retail shopping, bars, restaurants, golfing, tennis, and other sports as well as medical, banking, education, and legal services.