Las Terrenas, Samana Dominican Republic (PressExposure) October 15, 2014 -- Samana is a charming tourism region in the Dominican Republic that has been largely bypassed by development. Some people want to keep it that way, for fear that it may lose its pristine beauty through overdevelopment, as has happened elsewhere in the country.
However, the population is counting on tourism to improve their living conditions. It is the joint responsibility of government and the private sector to promote the industry, but in an orderly and sustainable manner.
THE TOURISM FORUM
That was the goal of the Second Annual Forum for Tourism Development of Samana that just took place in the Sublime Hotel, one of the area's whimsical beach resorts, owned and operated by the Viva Wyndham chain founded by the prominent tourism entrepreneur Rafael Blanco Canto.
The event was hosted by the Samana Tourism Cluster (CTS), the hotel association, the Ministry of Tourism and several commercial sponsors, including Royal Caribbean Lines, Jet Blue, Aerodom and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - who were the initiators of the cluster system in the D.R. and donors for the creation of the CTS.
Guest speakers were Rafael Blanco Tejera, President of the Tourism Cluster, who delivered the keynote address; Simon Suarez, newly appointed President of the National Hotel & Tourism Association (and former president of CHA), who spoke on "Strategic Actions for Development of a Successful Tourism Destination"; Radhames Martinez Aponte, Sub-Minister of Tourism, representing the Minister Francisco Javier; Maximo Iglesias, President of the Dominican Consortium for Tourism Competitiveness, who spoke about "Puerto Plata's Experience: Lessons Learned"; and Adolfo Lopez Belando, Tourism Consultant to the CTS, who presented his "Samana Development Plan".
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND CHALLENGES
In his opening speech, Mr. Blanco Tejera detailed the accomplishments of the Cluster in the past year, namely: support to small and medium tourist businesses, support to the Tourism Ministry in the drafting of a coastal zoning and management plan, the launching of a program to boost the competitiveness of tourist services (consisting of technical education and a job clearinghouse), international promotion and a public-private task force made up of the Governor, the legislators, municipal authorities and the private sector.
According to Blanco, this last achievement is the most significant, as it has provided a means for private businesses to have continuous contact with our mayors and congressmen, as well as with the Tourism Ministry's Samana task force. All are now working together toward a more orderly destination with sustainable growth based on environmental conservation and community integration.
He added that tourism is much more than just sun and sand -- it is a value chain that supports the tourist product.
Much of the meeting revolved around the problems that need to be solved - better regional land use planning and control, lowering of the toll on the Atlantic Boulevard, the repaving and signage of streets, construction of aqueducts, sewers and treatment plants, solid waste removal, renovation and expansion of the cruise ship port, greater integration of the community and organization of tourist services.
While there was some finger pointing, for the most part the discussion was done in an atmosphere of mutual concern and collaboration.
The event closed with the reading and signing of a Pact for Integrated Management through which the public and private sector pledged to jointly carry out the actions needed so that Samana may become more competitive and be ready for its definitive takeoff as a tourist destination.
The document delineated three distinct lines of work: zoning, support to small and medium businesses, and education. It was signed by each of the municipalities that make up Samana province, the legislators, Ministry of Tourism and the Samana Tourist Cluster.
For the first time, there is a clear unified vision of where Samana is going and permanent lines of communication between the various public and private sector actors.
This, combined with greater access to the province through a new international airport and scenic roads, the addition of new upscale resorts and condominiums, a new trend toward boating and recreational marinas, plus greater and more professional advertising and promotion of the region overseas, will likely set the stage for the definitive tourism development of Samana.
Potential investors and developers would be wise to keep an eye on what some people think may be the next great Caribbean tourism destination.