Analyst cites Dominican tourism’s ills, prescribes remedies

Despite the recommendations drafted by the UN Economic Commission for LatinAmerica and the Caribbean (CEPAL) in response to the languishing Dominican Republic tourism industry, local officials continue drafting ineffective proposals that ignore the root causes of this sector’s recent decline in revenue (“Dominican Tourism Industry Looks to Sidestep Crisis,” June 12, 2008).

Eliminating the tax on fuel, granting “Fifth Freedom” (less restrictive landing rights) and supporting massive ad campaigns to attract increased flights into the country are not sufficient strategies to produce long-term, sustainable growth. In effect, these measures would benefit foreign airlines the most and any revenue incurred domestically would be stalled at the airport gates.

Organizations like CEPAL who analyze tourism trends understand that expanding the entire industry requires links to local businesses and to agricultural produce. It also needs to focus on fighting environmental degradation, which rapidly destroys the very product tourism so ardently markets.

However, officials seem to focus on the frequency of flights and number of passengers, while ignoring the quality and integrity of the industry. They must consider the world oil crisis, the impact of the food shortage on tourism, a decelerating US economy and, as one online commenter noted, the repercussions of the potential opening up of US tourism to Cuba.

Then, if tourism cannot be a mechanism of sustainable growth, investment should be focused on other economic sectors that contain that potential.