Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Rise Of Sustainable Tourism in the Dominican Republic{47702E65-350E-4289-86BE-252C02B10A7C}

The article link posted above is posted on the Chemonics website. Chemonics is an international development consulting company that helps governments, businesses, civil society groups and communities advance meaningful change. Basicially, they do this so that people can live healthier lives that are more productive and more independent. They work under contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as other foreign aid donors to design and implement development projects in developing countries around the world.

The article is titled “Sustainable Tourism Fuels Dominican Economy” and talks all about how the tourism industry in the Dominican Republic is booming and with the proper practices put into place, we can look at tourism not as something that harms the environment and takes away from local communities, but as way to expand their economy while protecting the environment.

I think that nowadays when we think of tourism we think of all-inclusive resorts, unlimited drinks, tons of food, beautiful beaches and lounging by the pool. Many people don’t take into account the local communities surrounding these huge resorts and the ways in which these people become affected. I love reading an article such as this one and learning about the positive effects of tourism and ways that associations are making a difference to protect local communities and fragile ecosystems that border the resorts.

I recently spent one week at the “Grand Paradise Resort” in Samana, Dominican Republic. The first thing that I noticed when entering my hotel room was that there was no electricity. I instantly became aggravated and headed to the front desk to find out why. The very kind, patient young man took me back to my room and once inside showed me how the room key (a plastic card) had to be inserted into a plastic slot located beside the door in order to retrieve electricity for your room. The young man explained to me that this was one of the resorts ways of conserving electricity. After he left I felt kind of stupid and a little embarrassed but then I thought to myself “Why? In Canada, we take these things for granted. We expect our lights to turn on and we use as much as we want”. It was my first bit of culture shock since arriving there.

Throughout the week, after being served by local people and getting to know them quite well from sitting down and having conversations, I couldn’t help but wonder if they resented the tourists who come into their country and use up their valuable resources. I felt like I was taking from them. I ended up talking to a young bar tender who was named Juan. He was 26 and grew up in Samana with his large family. I asked him how he felt about the resorts in the area and he just said to me (in his thick accent) “without this resort, I have no job and no support for my sisters”. I have to say, the local people were the friendliest people I have ever met in my entire life. They were appreciative, complimentary, kind and thoughtful.

When I came home and did my research on sustainable tourism in the Dominican and came across this article, it made me feel a lot better about my vacation and the ways that associations are protecting these local communities and helping them to gain from the boom in the tourism industry. The local people want their economy to grow, they want to be provided with jobs. By increasing brand value and streaming travel, the Dominican Republic is hoping to attract more tourists and generate higher returns. Yes, there are challenges because of the local rainforests and marine reserves but USAID is working hard to achieve a balance between development in tourism and environmental protection.

As Gibson states in the article, “a decline in environmental impact leads to consumer satisfaction, which in turn leads to repeat visitation and word of mouth marketing. This can create higher and more sustainable returns to local communities, spurring economic growth and reducing poverty.” I have high hopes for this theory and after visiting a developing country first hand and getting a chance to see what some of the resorts are implementing in order to try and conserve the country’s resources, I feel that a lot of good CAN come from this. Overall, I feel that there is a lot of work to be done and these things won't happen overnight but I'm happy to say that I feel confident for the future of the Dominican Republic's travel industry and the communities and environments that support it.

-Ashley Dolan

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