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    A Friend’s Wise Observations on Sustainable Tourism

    By Keith R | September 1, 2006

    Topics: Sustainable Tourism | 1 Comment »

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    The following discussion of what the Dominican Republic needs to do on the road to sustainable tourism was written last year by my friend and fellow Green Team member Jaime Moreno, was included as part of the UN Development Programme's (UNDP) National Human Development Report 2005 for the Dominican Republic and was reprinted earlier this year with Jaime's permission in the Green Team's blog. I believe most of his observations/ recommendations could just as easily apply to the rest of the Caribbean, if not all Latin America too, so I am including it here as well.

    If you wish to download and read an Adobe PDF version of the full Report's chapter (in Spanish) on tourism, you can do so at this link. An overall synopsis in English of the entire UNDP report on the DR, covering not just tourism but also trade, free-trade zones, etc., can be found in both MS Doc form and Adobe PDF form.



    The difference between sustainable tourist development and any other form of exploitation of this activity is human development.


    There will always be market niches for cheap mass tourism, which is a destroyer of sustainability. We now have an exceptional opportunity, because consumer preferences worldwide are changing towards tourism that respects the environment, the local culture and communities. These elements strengthen the attributes of human development and, moreover, constitute market opportunities that have to be seized.


    As far as the tourist offer is concerned, the necessary adjustments to produce the kind of tourism that promotes human development require, first, to establish and enforce the environmental and fiscal norms and laws. Second, to ensure that the dynamics of this activity integrates women and men, not as consumers, investors or workers, but as agents capable of producing relationships, goods and resources of high value, i.e. culture, knowledge, community, in other words "social capital".


    Social capital is the basis on which institutions are founded. It gives a sense of belonging and ownership to men and women, creates collective responsibility for the protection of the tourist destination, and reduces negative externalities. The priority is to include society and its communities in the creation of value and the benefits of the tourist activity, so that the communities themselves contribute to the care of the culture and the environment.

    How Tourism Can Directly Affect the Maritime Coastal Environment.  How Many *Indirect* Impacts Have We Not Accounted for Yet?

    In addition, a response has to be given to the ecological problems that have been identified, in order to promote a clean environment that guarantees sustained growth; to control the impact of environmental degradation on the poor population, to improve the relationship between environment and health, and to mitigate the destructive power of natural disasters.

    The problems of sustainability are not limited to the fragile coasts, because the rivers and the mountains, too, need a society that manages these natural resources in a lasting manner. Otherwise, the potential for eco-tourism will be lost.


    Ecological education is a capacity-building strategy for the conservation of the environment. The majority of the persons whose livelihood depends on tourism and the coastal communities in general, are often not aware of what happens with the environment. This Report considers that part of the huge losses suffered by the ecosystems is due to ignorance on how to manage natural resources.


    It is necessary to change, tighten and to enforce the parameters of environmental requirements. In addition to sanctions, the creation of an environmental movement should be encouraged, in association with private international organizations like Green Globe or Blue Flag that conduct independent audits and establish regional classifications, categories and awards for hotels that comply with the norms. The generation of profits will obviously depend on the quality of the tourist products and services, as well as on the national and international markets. More connections should be established between the entrepreneurial sector and the local producers of tourist goods and services.


    The successful application of this kind of strategy will require local and international collaboration, and a stronger presence of the local communities in the tourist development process at the distinct destinations. It is also necessary to strengthen municipal authorities’ capacities to adequately manage the public good, through regulation of land use and municipal management plans, together with environmental, sanitary and infrastructure inspections and, possibly, sanctions.


    New criteria are needed to evaluate tourism development projects, such as assessments of their effects on sustainable local development and on poverty alleviation.


    It is both deceptive and insufficient to measure success exclusively in terms of increases in tourist arrivals. The country has the challenge to derive more added value from tourism, without raising the volume of visitors. The increase of revenues per tourist and per room is the first link to economic sustainability.

    These Technologies May Help Prevent/Mitigate Environmental Impacts of Tourism.  But How to Pay for Them and Are They Appropriate for all LAC Contexts?


    In order to achieve this, it is important that the Dominican Republic take control of its own image as a tourist destination. Institutional promotion should reestablish a differentiation in the tourist offer. The country has to define a strategy of diversification of its tourist emission markets, in order to reduce seasonality and cyclic behavior, as well as to increase the length of stays and improve revenues per tourist.


    An aggressive strategy is needed that combines charter flights and available seats on regular airlines and at attractive prices. This strategy implies bringing to the country the greatest possible number of independent operators while betting on plural markets and, thus, increasing independence.


    It is imperative to generate international alliances that ensure that the hotels who install themselves in the country possess state-of-the-art technology for waste treatment and minimization of impacts. But, these alliances have to include forms of monitoring and denunciation of those who do not comply. For hotels that are already established, a certification system should be designed that helps them adjust progressively to the new quality standards.


    Last but not least, tourism based on human development should recognize its own values and contributions to culture, and vice versa. Tourism could become a dynamic element of the country’s heritage and communities by generating recognition and proud community feelings, and thus contribute to the dissemination of cultures and tradition. It might also create resources for conservation, benefit the receiving communities and motivate them to manage their own heritage, which would raise awareness among the tourists of the value of the different local cultural traditions.

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    One Response to “A Friend’s Wise Observations on Sustainable Tourism”

    1. richard salazar Says:


      My name is Richard Salazar, Marketing and Investment Coordinator, for one of the most important project being developed in the Dominican Republic. We are engaged in the most ambitious sustainable-tourist projects in the entire Caribbean, The River View Village project in the southwest of the Dominican Republic, Paraiso, Barahona.

      The concept created by the owners/developers is to construct 5 star residence within a ecologically friendly environment. Complete with waterfalls, bridges, and naturally spring fed pools, the complex will boast the latest in solar technology. The River View Village is nested between two mountains and many homes will have beautiful Caribbean Sea views.

      We would love to speak with one of your representatives. What we seek is to participate in your efforts to develop ecologically concepts for the southwest and discuss our project with you further. For we feel because of it’s important to the biosphere of the country, to develop the southwest in a highly responsible manner.

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