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One of the most interesting pieces of news to come out of last month’s annual Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange (DATE), held in Punta Cana, was the announcement of a new country-wide sustainable tourism initiative called Dominican Treasures. Similar in aim to the well-known Golden Globe certification processes, Dominican Treasures seeks to certify products that meet exceptional quality and sustainability standards that adhere to global sustainable tourism criteria. The project is implemented under the Dominican Consortium for Tourism Competitiveness (CDCT) Sustainable Tourism Empowerment program. The CDCT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism and competitiveness within the Dominican tourism industry.
It would seem that Dominican Treasures is on the right track on both an ethical level as well as the pragmatic level of attracting additional visitors to the country. According to a study put out by the World Tourism Organization, “the sun-and-sand resort tourism segment has matured as a market and its growth is projected to remain flat. By contrast, sustainable tourism is one of the sectors expected to grow fastest in the next two decades.”
Dominican Treasures products are presently sold through a network of tour operators that are certified in rural and ecological tourism and are committed to the growth of sustainable tourism in the Dominican Republic. The project’s website offers both single- or multiple-day destination packages all with the Dominican Treasures guarantee of high-quality customer service.
According to Yira Vermenton, coordinator for Dominican Treasures, the organization will continue to grow until it provides one-stop shopping for travel agents and their clients who are in search of environmentally responsible tourism products, from accommodations to local tour operators.
Certification is available for a range of entities, including eco-lodges, small hotels in rural areas, artisans’ organizations, restaurants, community associations and hiking trails. To achieve certification, products need to adhere to global sustainable tourism criteria, such as quality standards, economic growth within the community, environmental conservation and protection and enhancement of the local culture.
Companies successfully completing the process obtain a Bronze, Platinum or Gold Certification, according to their level of accomplishment of the evaluation criteria.
“We do not expect that each member meets 100 percent of the criteria,” explained Vermenton. “We do require that they each reach the minimum established for the basic level of certification and that they are committed and dedicated to improving quality and sustainability elements of their business.”
Training workshops are offered on a range of topics to managers and owners of small tourism businesses, including workshops on the development of sustainable tourism products, sustainable tourism and market trends and nature and culture guide courses.
Among the projects that have been approved for certification are Arte Cuseco, a community project integrated by a female artisans organization in Padre Nuestro, Bayahibe; the boutique hotel, Casa Bonita in Barahona; the aquatic center El Caney in La Caleta, Santo Domingo East; Rancho Olivier in Jarabacoa; Eco Campo La Sangria in Rincon Bay, Samana; and Cabanas Clave Verde in Las Terrenas, Samana.
Additional projects that are knee-deep in the certification process are the eco-lodge El Sereno de la Montana in Moca; the Wild Ranch Adventure Park, in Gato, Bayahibe; Hotel El Pedernal in Pedernales and the eco-cabins Sonido del Yaque in Jarabacoa.