A practical guide for business travelers to hotels, restaurants and attractions in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo.
BY JOACHIM BAMRUD
SANTO DOMINGO -- Thanks to aggressive efforts by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, coupled with the CAFTA free trade agreement with the United States, the Dominican Republic is becoming more popular with business travelers.
The key destination is capital Santo Domingo, although cities like Santiago (the industrial and tobacco hub) are also popular.
Flight connections are extensive. American Airlines has three daily direct flights from Miami to Santo Domingo and one daily direct flight from New York.
For lodging, Santo Domingo offers several options. We recommend the V Centenario InterContinental (Avenida George Washington 218, Santo Domingo, tel + 1 (809) 221-0000, Web site) due to the combination of its great location (right on the George Washington Avenue, known locally as the Malecon, which makes it easy to get to business meetings as well as off-hour attractions like the old part of the city), InterContinental-style quality and service, ocean views from all rooms and most meeting spaces, top-notch restaurants such as The Brasserie (ideal for business meals) and ample selection of meeting rooms. Our favorite spots: The swimming pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea (perfect for getting energy before those meetings) and the Club InterContinental Lounge, which is elegantly decorated and offers great views of the city.
Most of the guests at The V Centenario InterContinental are from the United States, according to the hotel's sales and marketing manager Exmin Carvajal. "According to the last two years statistics, 62 percent of our rooms were occupied by U.S. visitors coming for business or pleasure," he says. "As an international chain who meets all American security and services standards we are the preferred hotel for American companies and U.S. travel agencies." The remaining guests come from Latin America (23 percent), Europe (8 percent) and other countries (7 percent), he adds.
"Many foreign based firms select our hotel because of our capacity to hold big events, number of meeting rooms (11) and the benefits offered by Priority Club membership and the InterContinental Meetings program," Carvajal says. The typical users of the hotel's meeting spaces are locally-based international firms as well as local companies and the government/diplomatic corps, he says.
For dining, we recommend a couple of options:
Pat' e Palo, Calle Atarazana Colonial Zone, Santo Domingo. Tel: +1 (809)687-8089. Email: [email protected]. Web site
This 504-year old restaurant is located right on Plaza de España, itself a popular tourist attraction at day and night. The food and service are superb – in contrast to some of the adjacent restaurants.
La Briciola, Arzobispo Meriño, No.152 "A", Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo, Tel + 1 (809) 688-5055. E-mail: [email protected]. Web site
This popular Italian restaurant draws a who’s who of business people (as well as local and foreign celebrities) as much for its food as for its great ambience in a 16th century building.
The Brasserie, V Centenario InterContinental, Avenida George Washington 218, Santo Domingo tel + 1(809) 221-0000. Web site
Good for business meals breakfast, lunch or dinner.
El Conuco, Casimiro de Moya 152, Santo Domingo. Tel + 1 (809) 686 0129. Web site
This is a popular place for visiting tourists thanks to its combination of typical Dominican food, entertainment and decoration. Recent visitors include Robert de Niro.
Adrian Tropical, Avenida George Washington 5, Santo Domingo. Tel + 1 (809) 508-0025
Another popular place for off-hours. Outside seating allows you to see (and hear) the Caribbean. Serves typical Dominican food. Popular among locals and expats alike.
Even if you only have a few hours in off-time, a must is visiting the Colonial Zone, founded in 1498 and declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1990. One option (if before 6PM) is to take a taxi to the corner of Calle Conde and Parque Independencia. Walk Calle Conde all the way to Parque Colon. There you can sit down at one of the cafés and admire the view of the Primada de América cathedral (the oldest in continuous use in the Americas) and other historic buildings. Sit so you can avoid looking at the new Hard Rock Cafe, which undoubtedly would ruin the “historic” moment.
Continue west until you get to Calle Las Damas, then turn left. Just before reaching the Plaza de España, take a quick stop to look at the Sofitel Nicolas Obando, the old governor’s mansion renovated by the French hotel company (and a good place to smoke a Dominican cigar).
If you are heading to the Colonial Zone after 6PM, drop the Calle Conde walk and head directly to the Parque Colon.
Another major attraction is the Malecon. If you’re staying at the V Centenario InterContinental, just go out the main entrance, cross the street and turn left. That can take you to the Colonial Zone in 20 minutes or so.
As in any city, always ask the concierge at the hotel where and when you can walk without worrying about petty crime. Santo Domingo’s core tourist and business area is generally safe, with plenty of tourism police, but always take basic precautions.
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