Dominican Republic Tourism Minister Says Airline Cuts Hurt Travel & Cargo

Tourism Minister Felix Jimenez and Airport Department director Andres Van Der Horst concur that the profitability problems affecting the airlines and leading to cuts in flights and frequencies to the DR has a direct effect on remittances, agriculture and tourism. They said that the government is exploring the possibility of cutting taxes on aviation fuel (avtur) in order to compensate the airlines for the burden of record fuel prices.

Jimenez said that the strategy would also include other measures to ensure that the DR is less affected by the present economic problems. A meeting with private sector representatives to discuss the proposal has been called for Wednesday, 11 June at the Hotel Hamaca to finalize the proposal that would then be submitted to President Fernandez for approval. Jimenez said they are concerned that Europe may reduce flights and frequencies, following the cost saving strategy of US airlines, as reported in Listin Diario.

American Airlines cancelled its flight to Fort Lauderdale on 31 May. This week it also announced the cancellation of the American Eagle flight to Saint Maarten from Santo Domingo, AA jet service to San Juan, and Samana to San Juan flights as of September 3. Delta has also announced the cancellation of its JFK-SDQ flight as of 9 September. And US Airways has just kept its Punta Cana connection from Philadelphia. Continental and United Airlines have also announced that major flight reductions are imminent. US Airways will stop flying its Santo Domingo-Philadelphia route in September 6. They also will reduce frequencies to Punta Cana from Philadelphia and Charlotte. No changes have been announced on the Punta Cana-Boston route for now.

Van der Horst said that fruit and vegetable exports, as well as passenger travel and the tourism industry, are affected by the flight reductions. High value free zone manufacturing operations are also dependent on air cargo. The DR has a large expatriate community that regularly travels home. The reduction in supply of flights that is bringing about a rise in prices will considerably reduce the number of Dominicans who travel home to visit friends and family.

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