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EcoTourism in the Dominican Republic – Columbia Business School – (english)

IDC Project

Project Name: EcoTourism in the Dominican Republic
Project Location: Miches, Dominican Republic
Project Type: Tourism/Hospitality/ Real Estate – Marketing/Entry into New Market
Client: Earth Institute – Center for Environment, Economy, and Society at Columbia University (CEES)
Web Address: TBD
Faculty Sponsors: James J. Warfield

versión en español: Rancho La Cueva

Overview of Organization:

The Center for Environment, Economy and Society (CEES) came into existence in FY 2007 under the auspices of the Arts and Sciences (A&S) of Columbia University. Professors Geoffrey Heal (Columbia Business School (CBS) and Don Melnick (A&S), co-direct CEES. Intellectually and functionally, the CEES can be subdivided into two main divisions: (1) Applied Research and Implementation; and (2) Professional Development and Outreach. The focus of the Applied Research and Implementation component has been on effectuating the full value of natural ecosystem capital in the marketplace. A central principle of CEES is that contrary to the practice of environmental protection efforts over the last 40 years, there is a strong case for promoting development that enhances rather than degrades environmental and social systems, often by using market-based incentives. This principle is being put into practice through the Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth (ESEG) program of CEES, developing policies and actions that will promote economic growth in the private sector while sustainably managing ecosystems and their natural resources. One program is working in Papua New Guinea to establish practices that allow the value of the significant natural capital in energy, forestry, and water resources to be captured by their local owners and neighboring communities, thereby promoting local stewardship in the service of wealth for the long-term which translates into long-term sustainability.

Another program –the one relevant to the Project we propose for the International Development Club team – is ESEG in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic, the ESEG initiative is focused on the 22,000 people who live in and around the Municipality of Miches, a 190 square mile (125,000 acre) watershed on the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic in the Province of El Seibo. The ESEG-DR Initiative in Miches is a collaboration between the Presidential Commission on the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development (COPDES), the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Planning and Budget, Education, and Health, researchers from Columbia University and other U.S. institutions, and private sector representatives. It is aimed at assisting the Mayor’s office and other local leaders in Miches to simultaneously and sustainably manage the natural environment and economic growth in the municipality and its surrounding watershed.

Project Description:

Miches, a town of 22,000 people within a few hours of the Punta Cana airport and resort area, is an undeveloped watershed of great natural beauty, from ridge to reef. It is home to mountainous terrain that reaches down to pristine beaches, lagoons, and a bay delineated by a coral reef. Mammoth marine mammals (whales and manatees) are abundant in winter and easily seen in their natural habitat and exuberance. The Punta Cana area has 27,000 hotel rooms, mostly of the all-expenses included variety. (In contrast, all of Puerto Rico has less than 11,000 rooms.) Development of a tourist industry in Miches is inhibited by a poor road infrastructure, very limited local resident training and education, serious local poverty, and an environment that while picturesque, has been seriously degraded.

Issue/ Challenge to be addressed
The main objective of the project will be to investigate the opportunities for developing a range of tourist options for Miches in the next 2-5 years. Initially, the focus will be on what types of tourism opportunities can be marketed. Marine mammal viewing, hiking, mountain biking, and beach activities are potential existing opportunities. Are there opportunities for local crafts and cuisines to be developed? How can the Punta Cana tourism be used to jump-start Miches tourism? Can a day-trip or overnight trade be developed in conjunction with existing Punta Cana resorts? Can a marine-focused safari program be developed? Can a range of quality accommodations be developed, from 1-star to 5-star?

Underpinning the marketing questions, the financial implications of any proposed development will have to be assessed? Can the tourist options proposed be delivered at a cost that makes sense to consumers and any resort partners? How many “rooms” make sense along what timeline at what rates per night? How seasonal is revenue? Occupancy rates? How many local residents can be employed, what will their annual income be, how will that affect the overall economy of Miches?

Other strategic issues must also be addressed. Can local residents be trained to operate new facilities? How can Miches tourism serve to enhance the natural environment on which it will depend? What other new opportunities for economic development will be generated by tourism? Is there a particular branding approach to Miches tourism that could differentiate it from competition? What are the competitive risks? What would be likely to attract or deter investment?

Main Outcomes and Deliverables
A Feasibility Assessment (FA) for Developing Sustainable Tourism in Miches, Dominican Republic will address the issues raised in the immediately preceding section and raise any other relevant issues and concerns, with corresponding data and financial analysis. The FA should cite comparable s (including other marine mammal tourism locales), assess real local conditions, competitive advantage and disadvantage, opportunities for joint ventures with existing resorts, and other possibilities and limitations. The FA should not be merely narrative: it should provide a set of business plans whose comparable feasibility will be supported by reasonable assumptions, financial data, and projections. The FA should be delivered by the end of February, 2008.

Approximate Length of Project
4 months

Team profile (desired skills)
Experience in the Tourism/Travel/Hospitality industry. Ecotourism, Real Estate Development, Marketing, and Consulting experience.

Language Requirements
Spanish and English

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