Dominican Republic

Tourism, based primarily around all-inclusive resort holidays, has grown strongly in the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic (often called the DR) since the 1980s, and is playing a significant part in its economic development. Visitors to this substantial island, which it shares with Haiti, are magnetically attracted to strings of idyllic Caribbean beaches – clear blue sea, white sandy shores and palm-tree fringes – and opportunities for water sports (including surfing, windsurfing and diving) and whale-watching.

Venturing beyond the resorts independently, while requiring a bigger budget, is more than worth the effort. To escape the tropical heat of the coast, you can head up to the alpine interior of the Central Highlands, where there are excellent possibilities for hiking – from attractive market-garden towns through sugar and fruit plantations to forested national parks and high mountain peaks (Pico Duarte is the highest in the Caribbean).

The Dominican Republic has a landmass of 48,000 sqaure kilometres, similar to that of Denmark. This Caribbean nation is located in the north of the Caribbean and in 2015 had a population of 10.6 million people. The capital, Santo Dominigo is the largest city housing 2.3 million locals.

In 2013, DR welcomed a staggering 4.7 million International visitors. If your trip coincides with one of the carnivals or festivals held throughout the year, it will be especially memorable. Non-stop dancing, blasting music (particularly merengue), dazzling costumes and gallons of rum make for a real air of communal extravagance. During quieter periods, you can savour the DR’s rich artistic tradition.

From ancient Taino rock paintings and brightly hued farmhouses that stretch across the countryside to the great colonial city of Santo Domingo (the first in the new world), you are definitely guaranteed a colourful stay.







Ethical Travel Issues and advice

Sex tourism & Drugs:

The Dominican Republic is at the top of the list with Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines as the leading destinations for the international tourism sex industry. Their young girls (and boys) leave villages for the resorts, and the vagaries of a life of prostitution, whether highly organized or casual.

The international sex industry flourishes when first-world punters holiday in faraway playgrounds and look for cheap sex – doing what they would not do at home in a fantasy world of moonlit nights on hot beaches. Children are particularly vulnerable and the international organization ECPAT campaigns to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.

HIV infection rates are also sometimes attributed to tourism.Tourists bring infection to remote places; infection rates flourishes alongside sex tourism.

Similarly, the tourist trade provides an infrastructure in which the drugs trade can flourish. Good communications systems provided by tourism make life convenient for drug traffickers.

The social impact of tourism goes beyond the crude effects of drugs and sex. The arrogance of Western tourists who bring their own moral codes on holiday with them and expect locals to embrace them can create serious dislocation to distant cultures. Just seeing tourists wear inappropriate clothes can make local people feel marginalized.

Package holidays, All-inclusives & Economic Leakage:

The way in which the industry is organized means that, for the most part, consumers spend much of their holiday cash in buying the package – before they leave home. Much of that goes into the pockets of foreign owned companies in the host countries: not many nationals of poor countries get to own marble-floored hotels, shopping chains or flashy restaurants serving fusion food.

Statistics vary; but some people argue that what is known as economic ‘leakage’ – the extent to which local economies lose (or never receive) the revenue generated by tourism – is as high as four-fifths the cost of a holiday. Even if it’s not that high, leakage remains a serious problem for most host countries.

As an example, say you booked an all-inclusive holiday to the Dominican Republic at UK£549 for seven nights in Puerta Plata. On an all-inclusive holiday you pay for everything upfront: flight, hotel, food, drink, entertainments, sports and so on. That’s convenient for the customer, but not so good for those bars, restaurants, food stalls and guides outside the hotel premises.

Once you have paid for ‘everything’, you may not want to spend any more money in the local craft shops, the bars, the roadside food stalls. And while all-inclusives – very popular, in particular, in the Caribbean – have been a successful and well-run sector of the industry, the grassroots see things rather differently.

By and large, locals feels bitter about the glittering ghettos which have opened in their midst – local businesses only get the crumbs of the crumbs from those all-inclusive customers who have ‘left their wallets behind’. ‘Like an alien in our own land’ is the title of a St Lucian calypso which describes the writer’s feelings about tourism, in general, and all-inclusive hotels, in particular.

Ethical Photography:

Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.

The manufactured smile, however, when tourist ‘providers’ have been trained to smile for the tourists, has a different context. ‘Smile: you are a walking tourist attraction’ was one slogan used in the Caribbean many years ago. That approach may have disappeared, but the requirement remains and it takes its toll on the workers. In the Dominican Republic, a country which now welcomes more than 3 million tourists a year, one hotel worker said:

‘We have to smile to the tourists; but it is not what we are feeling in our souls. We want to work and we want to make your holidays happy. But it is difficult.’

Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.

Wildlife Parks & Zoos:

Ocean World Adventure Park, Marina & Casino is located near Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. It consists of a Marina, an adventure park, a wildlife park that includes an aquarium and a tiger enclosure. There has been much opposition to this large sprawling complex with some feeling it is out of character with the island. It has also attracted the attention of animal welfare groups and wildlife organisations due to the high number of animal shows and interactions including swimming in the tiger’s pool.

Destruction of local ecosystem for Tourism Development:

Jaragua National Park, famous for housing the world’s tiniest reptile, has been threatened by a mass tourism project. Located in the southwestern province of Pedernales (near Haiti) Jaragua National Park is the area of greatest biodiversity in the Antilles. Its 1,374 square kilometres encompass forests, beaches and islands. On the beaches of Jaragua park, sea turtles lay their eggs, like the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and it is an important habitat to the freshwater turtle, the Hispaniola slider (Trachemys decorata), also endangered.

Aguilas Bay, a pristine seven-kilometre beach on the west coast of the park, has long attracted foreign firms interested in tourism development. In 2009, the government was considering several investment proposals. One investor was looking to invest 850 million US dollars in the construction of two hotels with golf courses in Pedernales, very close to Jaragua National Park.