Counterpart International believes that the Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic could teach the rest of the region, or indeed the world, much about sustainable development and smart partnerships with the private sector.Counterpart’s president Lelei LeLaulu lauded the work being done by local non-profits and declared, “We will probably learn far more than we can teach organisations in the Dominican Republic.”
LeLaulu made these remarks to journalists after talks with conservation and business leaders as well as international aid officials in the Dominican Republic (DR), the Spanish-speaking nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
But following visits to Punta Cana, Bayah’be and Santo Domingo, the
Counterpart President said local groups saw a potential productive
partnership with the international development organisation. In this regard he mentioned Coral Gardens a successful community-driven reef restoration program which also increases local supplies of fish as the reefs grow.
Also on Counterpart’s menu for the Dominican Republic are information technology training for at-risk youth and the popular Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) which may be held on the island by year-end. “The high energy and creative intelligence of the people of the Dominican Republic have encouraged our staff to move forward with these initiatives a toda velocidad,” said LeLaulu.
During the visit, LeLaulu and Counterpart’s VP for Environment and
Conservation, Raymond Chavez met with Kelly Robinson of the Punta Cana Group, Lissette Gil of La Romana-Bayah’be Hotels Association, Ian Schembri-Sant of Starz Resorts and the Sosœa Bay Ecological Society, the local mission team of USAID, advisors to the Ministry of Tourism, and former Dominican Republic president, Dr. Leonel Fernández who now heads the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development.
Dr. Fernández supported Counterpart’s plans for the Caribbean, in particular efforts to promote sustainable tourism. “Over the last 25 to 30 years, development in the Dominican Republic has depended very much on tourism. It has opened the world to the Dominican Republic ... but it also creates job opportunities not only for hotels, but for people in agriculture, for example, who can sell their products to the hotels.” He said tourism also plays a key educational role as locals learn from other people’s culture and languages and added, “as we look into the future, we are trying to diversify our tourist offer in the Dominican Republic to consolidate that and to make tourism one of the foundations for sustainable development for our country.”
LeLaulu said just 30 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million annual tourists
came from the US but this figure will jump as the Dominican Republic seeks to increase its room inventory to over 70,000 hotel beds. “US investors,” he urged, “should really take a hard look at the huge potential offered by DR’s tourism expansion.”