An Historical Survey of Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean

12 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2019

See all articles by Carrie A. Meyer

Carrie A. Meyer

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 2, 2019


The Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean islands, by a comfortable margin. More tourists visited the Dominican Republic in 2017 than Jamaica and Puerto Rico combined. Cuba, arguably the most exotic destination in the Caribbean these days, and the largest of the Caribbean islands, ranked second in popularity with about 30 percent fewer tourist arrivals than the Dominican Republic. International tourism receipts in the DR were double what they were in Cuba as of 2016.

Relative to the 19 or 20 countries that are generally considered part of Latin America, the Dominican Republic ranked second only to Mexico in tourist receipts. Mexico is the real tourism powerhouse of the entire region. With its thousands of miles of sunny beaches, and many wonders of ancient civilizations, Mexico claimed 40 percent of all tourist arrivals to Latin America in 2017.

While the Dominican Republic also has abundant sunny beaches and boasts the original headquarters of the Spanish Empire in the New World, it has come from far behind to achieve leadership in Caribbean tourism. Despite its claim to numerous firsts such as the first Spanish settlement and the first Spanish cathedral in the New World, carvings in caves from ancient civilizations, mouthwatering tropical fruit, and some of the world’s finest beaches, only in the last thirty years has tourism taken off in what was once among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. This paper will put tourism in the DR in context with its neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean with a brief historical survey of the development of modern tourism in the region.

Keywords: Dominican Republic, Caribbean, Tourism

JEL Classification: O54, Z32

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Carrie A., An Historical Survey of Tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean (December 2, 2019). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 19-38, Available at SSRN: or

Carrie A. Meyer (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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