TourCert Journal

Major progress in Las Galeras – Insights into the first biodiversity-oriented destination

Blick zum Meer von einer Unterkunft © TourCert

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The holiday region in the Dominican Republic is working diligently on the TourCert certification as a sustainable destination

Las Galeras is a Dominican village on the east coast of the Samaná peninsula. About 6,000 people live in the area, which is famous for its beautiful palm beaches. To protect and conserve biodiversity, the local government, in cooperation with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the Ministries of Environment and Tourism and local tourism companies, has embarked on certification as the world’s first sustainable destination focusing on biodiversity. The process is carried out by TourCert on behalf of GIZ.

We have already reported on the start of the project at the end of 2018 in a blog post. Initially, the TourCert specialists trained local biodiversity consultants. At that time, 20 companies already began to analyse their relationship to sustainability and biodiversity using checklists. These prospective partner companies of the destination Las Galeras (restaurants, accommodation, providers of excursions such as boat trips, diving and horse riding) carried out a comprehensive inventory and developed an action plan in the period from January to April. Important topics included the environment, social issues, biodiversity and legal issues.

Bucht mit strahlend blauem Wasser und grünem Ufer © TourCert
Picturesque over- and underwater world in Las Galeras

In any case, the companies are on the right track and continue to educate themselves diligently. Training on the topics of safety, fire protection and earthquake hazard was very well received, as was the focus on biodiversity as further training for many interested parties. In the meantime, 30 tour guides have also received further training. This activity was initiated by the Sustainability Council of Las Galeras and was carried out by the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic.

The local government stands fully behind the certification process and is very active. In addition to the certification activities, the local government has started to improve the local infrastructure. It has paved several roads and built a parking lot on the beach to avoid wild parking. The car park also has toilets and showers for beach guests. Five selected routes in the region are now to be signposted together with the Ministry of the Environment – the artists under the tour guides create the signs themselves from natural material.

Handgemachtes Schild am Strand © TourCert
Example of a self-made sign on the beach “We don’t ask you to clean the beach. We only ask you not to pollute it.”

In the strategy workshop at the end of July with participants from the Sustainability Council, companies, tour guides and other interested parties from Las Galeras, the inventory was officially completed. The prioritisation of the fields of action has resulted in a demanding improvement programme. In the days that followed, prospective partner companies were visited that had made progress in implementing the action plan, such as Playita Sub, a diving provider that had just been certified by official bodies. The young and committed managing couple is currently being trained as tour guides.

The structure of the Sustainability Council is also to be strengthened in order to establish an official destination management organisation (DMO) with legal form. The members of the council are the mayor of Las Galeras, those responsible for area planning, representatives of hotels, youth and environmental organisations, artisans and fishermen from the region.

“Las Galeras is a destination where you can enjoy nature and have a good life. Nature is the greatest good, so its preservation must be our strength. Resource conservation and tourism are a good combination. The TourCert certification process gives us the tools to achieve this.”

Julio Lamano, Sustainability Manager

Geschäftsführerin von Playita Sub © TourCert
Raquel Samboy, head of Playita Sub, reports on the progress of the process

As you can see, there is a lot going on in Las Galeras, the stakeholders are all highly motivated and are exemplary in their commitment to certification as the world’s first biodiversity-oriented sustainable destination. We are very pleased to be a part of it and to accompany its development. The mandatory criteria of the companies should be fulfilled by the end of October in order to achieve the TourCert Check awards as official partner companies.

The sustainability report is in progress, the external audit at destination level is to take place in November. The municipality is now also taking the communication professionally into its own hands – they are already working on a concept for the creation of a destination logo, their own Internet presence, advertising articles and social media.

We are curious and will keep you up to date!

Gruppe der Workshop-Teilnehmenden © TourCert
The group of participants in the strategy workshop at the end of July

 

Tags
Biodiversity, GIZ, Las Galeras, Progress, sustainable destination

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