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The rapid growth of all-inclusive resorts (click here) was not the only news from the Dominican Republic’s travel industry, and for people who want experiential travel or a certain level of service, it may not even be the biggest news. A few years ago the then-new Gansevoort and, even more so, Amanera properties expanded the D.R.’s boutique luxury niche, so this year’s Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE), held in April, included some buzz about luxury EP resorts:

“We believe that each guest should live a unique and memorable experience,” said Lissa Jimenez, public relations manager of Blue Beach Punta Cana, at a press conference during DATE. She explained that the resort, which officially opens May 27, is “for the new generation of luxury travelers looking for a unique hotel concept. Designed by the architect Daniel Pons, it has 174 suites (1- to 3-bedroom units featuring Jacuzzis and white furnishings with blue accents) in 12 4-story buildings on white-sand Playa Cabeza de Toro, a spa (of course), a kids club, and sophisticated cuisine. “We are the only hotel that serves fish that has never been frozen, thanks to our agreement with local fishermen,” said Director General Jose Luis Leonardo. He added that although this is an EP resort, it offers an all-inclusive option. For more information, visit bluebeachpuntacana.com.

Tortuga Bay at the Puntacana Resort & Beach Club reopened in late 2017 with updated decor and new technology in its 30 suites, which are spread among 13 villas. The redesign would seem to have been a courageous undertaking, considering that the original decor was by fashion superstar Oscar de la Renta. However, my takeaway from an in-depth site inspection was that the refurbishment by designer Markham Roberts manages to update and refresh the suites while preserving de la Renta’s vibe with white walls, botanical prints, and elegant wicker furniture. Tortuga Bay, the only 5-Diamond AAA property in the Dominican Republic, also has new dining facilities (including an oenophile’s dream wine cellar), a humidor with a fine selection of cigars, and state-of-the-art equipment in the fitness center. The service? GM Roger Belletti told me that just to be a concierge here you’d have to have experience and a bachelors degree. “Moreover,” he said, “our employees aren’t friendly because they have to be; they’re friendly because they are friendly, and they are proud to work here.” For more information, visit tortugabayhotel.com.

The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, is, of course, part of the Marriott International family, so while revisiting the property I asked for an update on its commission policy. A salesperson said that the company hopes to negotiate a 7 percent agreement with the OTAs but will pay 10 percent to retail travel agents. If that remains the policy, then it’s worth further noting that all rooms are Ocean View and the beach is one of the best in the Dominican Republic (that’s setting the bar high, but remember: it occupies the site of the original Puntacana resort). The Westin offers an all-inclusive package, too, which is discretely marketed as a golf package. Moreover, it’s one of the few in the Caribbean that offers a Passover package. For more information visit starwoodhotels.com/westin.

Dominican Republic EP resorts
Ferrer Samana Superior Room.

Ferrer Samana is an exciting new venture because it’s in Samana, the still pristine but fast-growing peninsula at the northeastern corner of Hispanola, and when it opens this fall, it will be Majorca-based Ferrer’s first international hotel. The company is converting an older property into an 81-room, 5-villa resort with clean white decor, a beach club, and what Eduardo Iglesias, director of sales a marketing, promised would be 5-star service in a 4-star resort. Playing devil’s advocate, I asked Iglesias why someone might want to book Samana when Punta Cana is so convenient. “Samana offers more open space, greenery, soft adventure, and the spectacle of whales that you can see from the front of our hotel,” he said, “and our main goal is client satisfaction.” Iglesias added that commissions for retail travel agents might be as high as 13 percent. For more information see ferrerhotels.com.

See the July issue of Recommend magazine for guides to renovated hotels in recently restored Santo Domingo, the Caribbean’s hottest new tourism destination.

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