For those of you who haven’t visited us in a little while, last week we discussed sustainable tourism and went into a little bit of detail as to why it’s so important to us. In that blog post, I made a comment that we are lucky to be located in paradise, and that it was up to us to keep it beautiful. I wanted to spend a little more time today elaborating on that idea, and all of the different ways that it applies. As you will soon see, sustainability is not only about preserving the flora and fauna in the area but also enriching the community as well.
I would like to start with a quote by the great Ted Kheel, co-founder of PUNTACANA Resort & Club:
Tourism depends very heavily on the protection of the environment of the places that attract tourists. For tourism, the environment is the attraction. If the environment is damaged, the business is damaged [...] There are few businesses that I can think of where the protection of the environment is more important for the tour operator than tourism.
While protecting the environment obviously relates to the subject of sustainable tourism, it also goes so much further than that. A lot of people are familiar with our current efforts to protect the environment, but what many don’t know is that we have a history of investigating the local ecosystem and doing our best to keep it pristine. In 1999, the Puntacana Center for Sustainability was founded as a joint project between the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and Cornell University. It has gone on to attract attention not only from researchers at Cornell but also from other prestigious universities such as Harvard and Columbia.
Punta Cana is a unique location for research as the lab and resort are side by side offering researchers a location to test their theories in a thriving marketplace. Perhaps even more importantly, Puntacana Ecological Foundation is unique in that locals work on projects side by side with researchers from Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell. As the importance of PUNTACANA has increased in the eyes of the academic community, so too has the education of the locals. Frank Rainieri made it a point to prioritize the education of the children of resort employees, and the numerous schools that have sprung up in the area provide students with the ability to be future researchers if they desire.
At the end of the day, the most important feature to keeping Punta Cana paradise is creating and cultivating an educated and informed community. While having researchers on hand is valuable, the biodiversity center and the new schools provide a new type of community for the area. PUNTACANA cannot only be a job that people leave at the end of the day: it must also foster the family in all of its aspects. The proliferation of educational opportunities in the area has led to the creation of adult education classes and literacy programs. We are sustaining and preserving the environment while we sustain the needs of our community, and that is truly taking a holistic approach to sustainability.
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