Friday, March 27, 2015

Interesting investing-related observations I made during a short trip to the Dominican Republic

I don't know if this comes with the territory of being an investing fanatic, but it doesn't matter where I go or the reasoning for my trip- I am constantly making observations regarding possible investments and/or the presence of U.S companies abroad. I recently spent four days in the Dominican Republic for a friend's wedding and did not miss a chance to keep my eyes open. I had the privilege of staying at two different resorts: Barcelo Dominican Beach and Now Larimar (the latter being the best one by far!).

Here are some of the things I noticed which I feel were quite interesting:

1. Delta (DAL) airlines now serves Starbucks coffee (SBUX) (what happened do Dunkin Donuts?): I cant remember the last time I flew Delta and this may or may not be old news but last time I checked, Dunkin Donuts (DNKN) was the 'dominant player' in terms of coffee being served in airplanes. As a Starbucks shareholder, I was pleasantly surprised when the flight attendant handed me a cup with the Starbucks logo on it. I wonder how long this contract has been going on.

2. Delta employees remain fairly happy despite the changes in employee benefits: I traveled with a Delta employee whom happens to be friends with the bride. We spoke a bit about her role at Delta and how she feels about the changes that were made in terms of whom can take advantage of her employee perks. Although she showed a bit of disappointment with the fact that she can no longer offer benefits to her close friends, etc. She seemed very excited that her entire family (kids, parents, husband) can pretty much travel for free anywhere around the world (they just pay the taxes).

She also pointed out that Delta employees only have to work a minimum of 20 hours per week to get such perks which I feel is pretty cool. Anyways, the point of this observation is the fact that is always good to notice that company employees are happy and satisfied with their compensation. A company with disgruntled employees who feel are compensated unfairly is probably not going to go very far. So, it was nice to see that Delta is doing a good job with its people. Hey Delta, are you hiring? ;)

3. Dominican Republic tourism is booming. So get this-- each person that gets off an international flight in DR needs to pay $10 for a "tourist visa" regardless of the length or reason for the stay. This so called 'visa' is nothing but a very thin piece of paper (see below) that only stays in your hand for about 20 minutes until you cross the customs line.

The $10 fee needs to get paid each time you visit the country (is not something you keep and reuse). I did a little research regarding the amount of tourists entering the Dominican Republic each year. According to this site about 4.7 million tourists visited in 2013. At $10 per "visa" that's $47,000,000 per year and that doesn't even include how much the visitors payed to stay at their respective resorts. Looks like the D.R has been gaining a strong reputation for the best quality vacation for your money, and I don't see any signs of this slowing down anytime soon. Speaking from personal experience, Its the best time I've had at a resort in a very long time. Top quality food and drinks all inclusive. Not to mention the gorgeous weather. I cant wait to go back.

I made a note to myself to research companies that benefit from this booming in D.R tourism. If you have any ideas on this please email me or comment below. However, I'll make sure to share any research with you all.

4. Coca Cola (KO) remains the dominant soft drink everywhere, including resorts abroad. Our fridge was well stocked with some coke products. My time was spent at two different resorts and both had coke products. No signs of Pepsi anywhere.

From what I can remember, the prevalence of Pepsi soft drinks has never been really strong in DR. I would say Pepsi's presence is stronger when it comes to their snack products (chips, etc.).

5. Free Wi-Fi is not yet the norm abroad: I cannot lie that it was nice to be completely disconnected from the world for 4 full days. First of all, I had no phone service in the Dominican republic which means I could not make any phone calls. For communication purposes, I did have the option of paying for the wi-fi ($25 dollars for 24 hours, the equivalent of about $1,050 pesos) and could have downloaded WhatsAapp but I choose not to. The company that managed the WiFi at the resort seemed to be a local telecommunications company called Claro (which I later found out is the dominant player in DR for said industry).

6. Speaking of WhatsApp, here is how they will start to monetize: I decided to download the app on my phone while I waited to depart my plane on Monday, just to have it available. Upon my download, I was notified of this interesting piece of news:

After one year of service, they'll start charging $1 per year. Did you know this?! Quite interesting to say the least. If people continue using the service, that will be a nice addition of income to Facebook's (FB) bottom line.

7. Last but not least: It is possible to find investing fanatics everywhere: During the wedding rehearsal all guests got to know each other in terms of what they do for a living and how they know the bride. Needless to say I was super excited when I found out one of the guest was also an investor and of course we started talking about different companies and the performance of various stocks. He gave me names for a couple of companies that he has done well with and I cannot wait to do some research. As always, will make sure to share with everyone here on the blog.

Tell me, have you ever been to the Dominican Republic? Are you an observant of possible investment opportunities when you travel?

As always, thanks for reading & cheers to profits!