The story begins in 1969 when a group of American investors, headed by Ted Kheel, bought 30 square miles of undeveloped land stretching along five miles of the east coast of the Dominican Republic in the province of La Altagracia. The land was mostly impenetrable jungle and bush with no access roads and only a handful of small fishing villages dotted along the coast. The land stunned all who saw it, with white sand, coconut palms, crystal-clear waters and protective coral reefs. A few years later, Dominican entrepreneur Frank R. Rainieri joined them with his vision to create a resort community that respects the natural habitat while providing visitors with a world-class vacation experience. At the time the area was called Punta Borrachón (Drunkard’s Point), Frank Rainieri wisely decided to rename it Punta Cana, after the fan-shaped Cana palm leaf, Sabal causiarum, commonly known as the Puerto Rico hat palm, that flourishes in the area. Dominican born, Frank R. Rainieri, along with Theodore W. Kheel of American decent, founded and managed The Company of Residential and Touristic Development, known today as Grupo PUNTACANA S.A., began expansion, with the opening of a small hotel known as the Punta Cana Club. It had 10 two-room villas, a clubhouse, a small town for employees, a power plant and a basic aircraft runway. At full capacity this hotel could accommodate 40 guests.
After the eight-year battle with three different governments, authorization was obtained for the construction of the first private international airport in the country, allowing Grupo PUNTACANA’s primitive airstrip to be developed to accommodate full-sized commercial aircrafts. In a joint venture with Club Med construction began, and in 1984, Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) was inaugurated with the first international flight (a twin-turbo propeller aircraft) arriving from San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was and remains to be the world’s first and most successful, privately built, owned and managed, international airport. PUJ sent Punta Cana soaring, in its inaugural year the airport received 2,976 passengers compared to last year’s total of 2,589,98 servicing the over 60 resorts in the Punta Cana-Bávaro area and then some. Punta Cana International Airport services 76 airlines with destinations to 96 cities in 28 different countries.
Grupo PUNTACANA has transformed this once inhospitable jungle coastline into a booming industry, responsible for a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Corporate Social Responsibility plays an important role in the owners’ vision – a percentage of profits from the airport are invested in community projects. The company’s mission to promote sustainable development ranges from interest-free educational loans and medical facilities to revolving loan funding for their workers’ housing and an ecological foundation to protect and preserve the land and marine life.
PUNTACANA Resort & Club is the commercial name used for most of Grupo PUNTACANA’s touristic activities within that original piece of land. However, there are other companies including Punta Cana International Airport, Puntacana Village and Punta Cana Laundry Services, which do not come under the PUNTACANA Resort & Club umbrella. With over 45 years of experience, this company is rock-solid and has been able to grow even through the recent international financial crisis while winning various prestigious international awards. The companies found within Grupo PUNTACANA currently employ 2,000 direct employees and 2,000 indirect employees and show no signs of slowing down.
As of today PUNTACANA Resort & Club contains; three hotels, one of which is designed by Oscar de la Renta, two of the most recognized golf courses in the Caribbean including Tom Fazio’s Corales along with its stunning Devil’s Elbow and P.B Dye designed La Cana golf course. The resort has its own village comprised of various restaurants, Internationally Accredited primary and secondary school, real estate, shops, medical services and may other amenities.
Most of the services within the 15,000 acre resort are eco-friendly. Anything from the grass grown for our golf courses to the manure, is grown on property, Grupo PUNTACANA also invested in a biomass plant which recycles and reuses waste in order to create vapor to launder clothes. All new golf carts on site are electric, the Ecological runs a Coral Restoration program, not to mention a research center on ecological preservation and development. PUNTACANA Resort & Club is one of the leading locations in the Caribbean in sustainable development.
The Punta Cana region continues to grow with many advancements along the way. The new Coral highway linking Punta Cana to La Romana in just 35 minutes was recently completed, and Santo Domingo can now be reached in less than two hours. Grupo PUNTACANA is proud to be the founding company behind one of the top vacation destinations within the Caribbean.
The future looks bright!