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Socially responsible Tourism in Dominican Republic
Socially responsible tourism is trending—making it difficult to understand what it means in the real world especially as it remains largely undefined and nebulous. The definition I use for socially responsible travel is tourism that aims to limit or mitigate potential negative impacts that visitation can have on local communities.
Una Vaina Bien was created out of my desire to share my history, culture, and language with people visiting Cabarete—to help shape visitors into the kind of tourists I wanted to see in my community. I aim to arm my students with the linguistic knowledge, along with the sociocultural and historical knowledge to engage with the Cabarete community in a supportive, sustainable way. This means supporting local business, respecting local spaces, engaging and listening to their environment.
Our commitment to Ethical and Socially Responsible travel…
UVB’s commitment to the environment means minimizing paper waste and consuming as local as possible to limit environmental impact. As a result 100% of our materials are digital (no paper waste!)
Supporting local business means funnelling funds into the hands that need it most and teaching visitors to do the same. Check out my local spotlights to learn more about local gems.
Teaching visitors to speak to locals in their native tongue instead of the other way around addresses some of the inequities travel can sometimes force on local communities.
Exploring the balance between local rights, needs, and support and accommodating visitors. Together we can find immediately-applicable solutions to real-world problems!
What makes a business ethical?
GUIDELINE ONE: 80% or more of permanent staff is of local origin
Providing local people with jobs helps them gain marketable skills and provide for their families. Outsourcing jobs contributes to high local unemployment rates while simultaneously contributing to the unfortunate stereotype that local people are not as capable as foreign workers.
GUIDELINE TWO: Local folks in management and leadership roles
Local workers occupying management and leadership roles helps to dismantle the stereotype mentioned above, breaks the locals-in-subservient-positions paradigm, and provides positive role models for the community by giving youth something to aspire to beyond professional athlete.
GUIDELINE THREE: Fair, livable wages paid to local staff
A fair, livable wage allows local staff to provide for themselves, their families, and plan for the future by building savings. Local people should not have to live precariously between poverty and just barely scraping by. This is especially important because should all else fail they cannot, like many of us, simply pack their bags and go home.
GUIDELINE FOUR: Equal compensation for staff regardless of origin
Equal positions deserve equal pay regardless of the origin of staff. Experience and education are often the direct result of access. Pay based on these two criteria in circumstances where lack of access to education or work experience are the norm punishes locals for that lack of access.
GUIDELINE FIVE: TRAINING OR CAPACITY BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDED FOR STAFF
Professional development opportunities provide staff with the tools and skills they need to be able to do a great job and ensures excellent customer service. These opportunities can be language courses; assistance in accessing certification or capacitation programs; or offering work reviews that allow staff to pinpoint strengths, weaknesses, and resources to address and remedy those weaknesses.
GUIDELINE SIX: FAIR AND DIGNIFIED TREATMENT OF STAFF AND LOCAL COMMUNITY
Discrimination or abusive behaviour towards staff is illegal in the Dominican Republic.
All staff, regardless of origin, deserve to be treated in a fair and dignified manner. This treatment should also extend to the local communityâ€”a business that bars access or refuses service to local people cannot be deemed an ethical business.
GUIDELINE SEVEN: LOW TURNOVER RATES
In my experience, adhering to the above guidelines tends to result in lower turnover rates and better work cultures. In the most sinister cases, high turnover can be used to avoid severance pay or can signal that staff cannot deal with a hostile or toxic work environment. Low turnover often signals a certain level of employee satisfaction which usually comes from feeling safe, provided for, and valued.
GUIDELINE EIGHT: COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Community involvement is acknowledgment by a business that it has the means to serve the people it benefits from. This practice is an essential part of integrating into the community and extends beyond simply throwing money at complex issues.
GUIDELINE NINE: PERMANENT STAFF OF FOREIGN ORIGIN IS LEGALLY IN THE COUNTRY
This guideline ensures that positions are filled with foreign people who have made the commitment to becoming contributing members of the society they are working in.
GUIDELINE TEN: MEASURES TAKEN TO MITIGATE NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
Tourism often creates an excess of waste and environmental disturbances. Best practices include ethically and sustainably sourcing and disposing of produce (meat, fish, vegetables, etc.) and/or materials; having a proper sceptic, waste, or garbage management system, and managing electricity usage.