PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) located on the popular east coast of the Dominican Republic is introducing an ambitious expansion project in January 2009, which includes additional state-of-the-art technology and enhanced facilities for visitors. With this expansion, tourism officials anticipate the creation of hundreds of new jobs in Punta Cana.

The inauguration of the expansion of Punta Cana International Airport took place on January 20, 2009 with President Leonel Fernandez Reyna in attendance along with Minister of Tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia; Nicanor Pena, Bishop of La Altagracia; Minister of Public Works, Victor Diaz Rua; and various members of the board of directors of Grupo Puntacana – Frank and Haydee Rainieri, Robert Kheel, Julio Iglesias, and Oscar de la Renta. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the airport, which was the first private commercial international airport in the world.

“I feel great admiration for Mr. Frank Rainieri, because he was a visionary man when the situation was completely adverse to him and his plans,” said Francisco Javier Garcia, Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic at the official inauguration of the Punta Cana International Airport expansion. “The Dominican tourism sector grew a recorded 2 percent despite the worsening global economy situation.”

The expansion of the Dominican Republic’s busiest airport is the result of a multi-million dollar investment by Grupo Puntacana, the owners and operators of the airport, and the Puntacana Resort & Club. The renovation enables Punta Cana International Airport to fortify its position as a leader in the field by providing advanced equipment such as the only Doppler weather radar system in the Dominican Republic.

A new check-in terminal with forty stations and a new baggage-belt system opens this month, with additional changes scheduled to be introduced throughout this year and next, including a new, larger runway; expansion of the existing taxiways; and construction of a new taxiway and control tower.

Additionally, Punta Cana International is the first airport in the Dominican Republic to implement the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Common Use Self Support (CUSS) Kiosk system, which includes new e-ticketing machines, baggage drop areas, and 2D bar coding for boarding passes and baggage tags. Passengers traveling on commercial flights are able to print their tickets online or at airport kiosks, drop their bags at the bag drop area, and proceed directly to the gate, thus reducing their flight check-in time and improving their experience by allowing them more time in the duty-free, food court, and lounge areas. In cooperation with the Agriculture Department of the United States, a new inspection station has also been installed, with a modern x-ray machine to facilitate the pre-inspection of baggage.

“We are thrilled that Puntacana Resort & Club is celebrating 40 years as a world-class destination,” said Mr. Frank Rainieri, president and CEO of Grupo Puntacana. “To commemorate this important anniversary and our status as pioneers in the development of privately-owned and operated international airports, we have expanded the Punta Cana International Airport. The expansion of the airport promises to draw more visitors to this magnificent destination, create jobs, and generate increased revenue for the island.”

Currently, Punta Cana International Airport is the leading point of entry to the Dominican Republic and the third busiest airport in the Caribbean, welcoming approximately two million visitors per year and facilitating air travel for the region’s 25,000 hotel rooms.

As a result of the expansion, Punta Cana International Airport is now the only Caribbean and Latin American airport with direct flights from Russia (five per week) a key market for the region. Punta Cana International Airport currently welcomes 80 flights daily, serviced by 55 domestic and international airlines, from Latin America, North America, and Europe. US carriers to Punta Cana currently include Allegiant Air, American Airlines/American Eagle, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, and USA3000.