Tourism Sectors Developmental Effects On The Dominican Republic Tourism Essay


I am trying to answer the following question of the extent to which tourism has had a positive effect on the development of Dominican Republic’s economy, environment, and cultural change. I decided to research tourism in the Dominican Republic because I traveled there last year in March with my graduating class. I stayed in Punta Cana at a beautiful all-inclusive resort. I had a wonderful time there and experienced the magnificent beaches as well as amazing hospitality. In this paper I will argue that tourism does not benefit the majority of people and in fact third world tourism can be measured up to colonialism. The tourism industry in the Dominican Republic has had a positive effect on economic development however in effect the environment and cultural changes are suffering.

I will argue this by first looking at tourism as a developmental strategy and the increase of foreign tourism, which presents clear economic benefits. Secondly, I will demonstrate the environmental issues and threats to the ecosystem that have started to arise because of the great number of tourists. Thirdly, I will look at the cultural changes that have evolved such as the increase of prostitution and sex tourism.

Background Information

The Dominican Republic (DR), due to its spectacular beaches and landscape has developed along different parts of its territory that are mainly devoted to tourism. The Ministry of Tourism is responsible for ensuring the endorsement of tourism in the Dominican Republic and the agreement with the provisions of the Organic Law of Tourism. [1] 

According to the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, there have been dramatic increases in foreign tourism. In 2010 alone there have been 4,135,480 tourists that arrived by air. 3,189,306 of which have been foreigners, most of which were from North America. Tourism revenue increased rapidly in the 1990’s, more than doubling from 1992 to 1997, when it reached $2.1 billion. The Dominican Republic was one of six Caribbean countries that in 1992 earned more from tourism as a share of their exports than from any other sector. [2] Tourism in the Dominican Republic, as in other developing countries has an interplay of inequality with visitors from rich countries dropping in on the poor. The Caribbean is more tourism centered than any other part of the world. In some smaller islands, tourism threatens to become a new ‘monocrop economy’ leaving countries dependent on tourists.

Definition of Terms

Tourism has been described as the ‘new colonialism’. As said by author Srisang,”Tourism, especially Third World tourism, as it is practiced today, does not benefit the majority of people. Instead it exploits them, pollutes the environment, destroys the ecosystem, bastardizes the culture, and robs people of their traditional values…In other words, tourism epitomizes the present unjust world economic order where the few who control wealth and power dictate the terms. As such, tourism is little different from colonialism” [3] The DR is seen as a prototype for ‘enclave tourism’, which means that they maximize economic benefits and limit social and environment impacts by concentrating investments and visitors to a small geographical area. [4] These all-inclusive resorts provide everything so there is no need to leave the resort complex.

Connections to the Course

This topic connects to the course in many ways. Firstly, the Dominican Republic has been getting help from the IMF and World Bank for years now. The World Bank created a commitment to tourism as a development strategy for developing economies. Secondly, we can look at Wallerstein’s world system theory, which is arranged according to influence: core (most dominant), to semi-periphery, to periphery (least dominant). The DR is a semi-periphery because it is industrialized third world nation but it lacks the power and economic dominance of the core nations. Thirdly, Andre Gunder Frank argued that rich colonial (‘metropolitan’) powers acquired wealth through exploiting weaker (‘satellite’) countries such as the DR. Finally, ‘enclave tourism’ at the national level is frequently seen by the native population as a form of neo-colonialism. [5] Enclave guests are basically segregated from the local culture and from the local informal sector, which includes vendors, drug dealers and prostitutes. This inevitability creates a wall between the guests and the locals and the bigger issue is that it prevents economic benefits from these resorts to actually going back into the community. [6] A case study was done in Luperon, Dominican Republic, a small community with no prior experience with the tourism industry. The study found that the natural flaw of enclave tourism as a form of development in this area was that the management of the enclave resort wanted to reduce economic exchanges between tourists and local businesses in order to increase resort revenues. [7] There is an issue with the distribution of profits from these resorts because the local communities are not seeing any improvements.

Tourism as a Developmental Strategy

Although there are numerous tribulations with tourism in the DR, there have also been a lot of positive effects. In 2010, the Dominican economy showed a strong recovery by growing 7.5% during the first half of the year. [8] This is partly because of their trade exports such as cocoa, coffee, and tobacco but mostly because of tourism profits, which reached nearly US$3.2 billion in 2004. [9] Over the last four decades, the World Bank has had a strong commitment to tourism as a development strategy for many developing economies. In return, the Dominican economy has had a very dynamic growth largely dependent on tourism. Hotels drive most tourism and the all-inclusive appeal of everything being free along with attractions and activities as well as nightly entertainment. This increases the targeted audience to couples, families, teenagers and elders because there is something for everyone to do. The DR also has natural assets such as the climate, that is always warm and it rarely rains which entices tourists. Also, the Dominican’s tourism tax policy is important because it has one of the lowest taxes in the Caribbean, which allows them to get extra revenue from tourists. [10] We can see that the economy has increased and grown in many ways, however one cannot just focus on the economy. We must look at the environment and social impacts and analyze how they have been affected by tourism.

Environmental Impacts

The environment and sustainability can often be under looked when judging the success of tourism because the economic benefits are usually the first to be looked at. Despite the economic success the DR has had, it faces a series of problems related to its rapid growth. For example, insufficient supplies of clean water and electricity, combined with slow construction caused by shortages of materials that has forced some vacationers to leave early because of unsuitable living conditions.

The Dominican Republic has environmental issues in the areas of deforestation, water supply, and soil erosion and as the eroding soil goes into the sea, it in effect damages the nation’s coral reefs. Negative impacts from tourism occur when the level of visitors is greater than the environment’s ability to cope with this use, also known as “carrying capacity.”

The UN sources report that as of 1993, the nation was losing 20,000 hectares per year of its forestlands largely because of business interests. [11] The destruction of trees was forbidden in 1967 to try and fix the harsh effects of the forest destruction. However, many farmers continue to cut trees secretly to make more land available for development. Water pollution is also an issue and it results from the effects of mining along with industrial and agricultural sources. [12] 

In addition there are endangered species in DR, some include the tundra falcon and three species of sea turtles. As a result of the rapid urbanization, the environment started to be greatly affected. Water resource management issues associated with tourism include, dumping of untreated wastewater and solid waste along the coast, overexploitation of groundwater, destruction of forest cover, and over fishing of coral reef and marine species. Sustainable development is what the country needs, which is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Social and Cultural Impacts

There have also been impacts of tourism on the rural livelihoods of the Dominican locals. The impact has generally been good, with an increase of household income along with increased job satisfaction. The rapid and rigorous development of tourism also results in different and usually less favorable consequences than small-scale development. Cultural clashes may arise through economic inequality or job level frictions. The clear relative wealth of the tourists often leads to unfair exploitation on the hosts’ side. One might add to these concerns the danger that tourism may lead to the commercialization of human relations. [13] Tourism often fails in promoting mutual understanding among different nations and stereotypes prevail. The tourist-host relationship is often restricted by space and time constraints. Tourists often fail to respect local customs and moral values, either out of ignorance or carelessness. Also, the profitable sexual exploitation of children and young women has matched up to the growth of tourism in many parts of the world. While tourism is not the cause of sexual exploitation, it provides easy access. Tourism also brings consumerism to many parts of the world, which before had no access to luxury services. The allure of this easy money has caused many young people, to trade their bodies in exchange for numerous different bits and pieces.

Responsible Tourism

We hear this term of being a ‘responsible tourists’ quite a bit. What is meant by it is that we as tourists should respect the people who are working at the resort, be culturally aware and having a low-impact.

The street vendors in the market are normally the last to see the financial rewards of the all-inclusive, mass in the DR so paying the tourists price is not so much a bad thing. We as tourists have the privileged attitude of being able to give something back directly to the people because we are in constant contact with them. In addition, it hardly needs saying that tourists should pick up litter, refrain from uprooting plants and coral, and use energy resources such as water and electricity efficiently, which are scarce in the DR.

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After looking a great deal of articles and websites, I would have to say that tourism in the Dominican Republic has done more harm than good. In my opinion, the detrimental environmental and social impacts of third world tourism are more of a concern than economic benefits. There will always be a demand for tourism in the Dominican however if the supply of beautiful and clean beaches, water and local hospitality is not available then tourists will change their vacation plans. The implications of my findings are that, tourism and tourists impinge on the local environment and traditional customs of Dominican workers. This is important to realize because from knowing and understanding this we can move forward by changing our ways. Acting as a tourists should by not putting a strain on the environment and being more culturally tolerant. Just because we are on vacation does not mean our values should fly out the window. There are always implications to our behavior and it is time that we become responsible tourists.

Britton, S.G. (1982) “The political economy of tourism in the Third World” Annals of Tourism Research” 9: 331-38.

Debbage, K.G. (1990) “Oligopoly and the resort cycle in the Bahamas” Annals of Tourism Research 17: 513-27.

“Dominican Republic Environment,” Encyclopedia of the Nations [Online] [Accessed Febuary 15th 2011]


Freitag, T.G. 1994. “Enclave tourism development: for whom the benefits roll?” Annals of Tourism Research 21: 538-54

Kiskeye Alternativa. 1999. “Tourism Development in the Dominican Republic: Growth, Costs, Benefits and Choices” New Jersey, USA: Rutgers University.


[Meritas Lawyers]. 2010. Doing Business in Latin America and the Caribbean. Minneapolis, US: Meritas

Meyer-Arendt, KJ., Sambrook, R.A. and Ker-math, B.M. (1992) “Seaside resorts in the Dominican Republic: a typology” Journal of Geography 91: 219-25

Srisang, K. 1991. “Third World Tourism- The New Colonialism” In Focus (Tourism Convern) 4:2-6




Approximately 250 words