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Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – Grupo Puntacana’s award-winning Puntacana Resort & Club has been a pioneer in sustainable tourism since its inception in 1971. Home to Oscar de la Renta-designed villas at Tortuga Bay, the 240-room Puntacana Hotel, several private residential communities and championship golf, the 15,000 acre property is situated in a lush island enclave on the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic – a pristine natural environment that has been scrupulously maintained throughout the years.
The founders of Puntacana Resort & Club recognized that tourism, in order to be profitable over the long-term, must also be environmentally and socially sustainable. When the resort built its first beach cottages in 1971, Grupo Puntacana constructed an elementary school to provide classes for the children of the employees. The original architecture of the resort was built relying mainly on local materials with a design that was integrated into the landscape ensuring that no building was constructed any taller than a coconut tree. This rich tradition in social and environmental concern has been one of the guiding principles of Puntacana Resort & Club.
With minimal to no government investment in infrastructure, utilities, and community development, the leadership of the private sector in the region has become even more critical. Puntacana Resort & Club has been active in promoting, recruiting, and pressuring other developers to participate and invest in the sustainable development of the region, using its credibility and experience to positively influence the practices of other developers and hoteliers. Today the resort is recognized as a Caribbean leader in sustainable development.
In 1994, the Puntacana Resort & Club helped incorporate the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and donated 1,500 acres of land as an Ecological Reserve for conservation, research and recreation. The reserve has been protected in perpetuity.
Since 2002, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation has conducted the Rhinoceros Iguana (Cyclura cornuta) Conservation Project. Once abundant in the dry forests and arid coastal areas of the Dominican Republic, today the wild populations of Rhinoceros Iguanas are limited almost exclusively to coastal areas of the island. The Foundation has been breeding the iguanas successfully for two years with 10 captive-bred iguanas successfully reintroduced into the wild.
In 2001, the Puntacana Center for Sustainability was created to develop research and educational programs that support the sustainable development of the region. Today, the Center hosts academic institutions from the around the world including Harvard, Cornell and Columbia to conduct research and educational programs related to sustainability.
In addition, Puntacana Resort & Club developed the Partnership for Ecologically Sustainable Coastal Areas (PESCA) with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. This project was developed to create educational and public awareness programs, and to conduct research identifying causal problems. In addition, the program will suggest scientifically proven restoration techniques to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems and threatened species including sea turtles, and endangered Elk and Staghorn Coral.
Much of the Ecological Foundation’s reserve can be enjoyed by guests of Puntacana Resort & Club, including natural lagoons that are protected and maintained by the foundation, hiking trails for visitors and forest habitats for birds, insects, turtles and other wildlife. Children who attend the resort’s Carrousel Club have the opportunity to visit the Ecological Foundation to learn first-hand about indigenous plants and animals, as well as the work the center is doing to protect the environment.
The Puntacana Ecological Foundation is also dedicated to protecting the natural habitat of the local sea turtles in danger of extinction. The Foundation modifies the lights so as not to affect turtle hatchlings, works with fisherman to document and protect turtle populations and educates the local school children and the public including programs to prohibit the sale of products made from turtle shells.
Puntacana Resort & Club created a Corporate Direction on Environmental Affairs to oversee environmental quality control and conservation of natural resources throughout the property. The Direction on Environmental Affairs works closely with the engineering and planning areas to ensure that resort operations and any and all plans for expansion take into account proper management of natural resources, water, and energy.
Resort villas are situated to take advantage of natural breezes and existing vegetation, with design elements that reduce direct sunlight and solar heat. A large portion of the resort features thatch roofs, a local material that maintains interior air temperature and reduces need for air conditioning and new pilots are being conducted using solar hot water heaters and energy saving technologies throughout the resort. High ceilings and tall windows also allow for natural light to replace artificial lighting for the longest period of time possible. The resort also purchases fresh, organic produce grown by the Ecological Foundation for use in restaurants throughout the property.
The resort was the first hotel in the region to construct a water treatment facility when it was introduced in 1992, setting a standard for all hotels in the Punta Cana region. Ninety-five percent of the freshwater used in the resort is treated in a water treatment facility that uses anaerobic digestion and settling ponds to treat the water, which is then recycled to irrigate green areas throughout the property.
Puntacana Resort & Club was also the first golf course in the Dominican Republic to use seashore paspalum hybrid grass, permitting the environmentally sound practice of combining seawater and recycled fresh water to irrigate the grounds.
And finally, Puntacana Resort & Club has designed, constructed and begun operation of a pilot worm composting operation with over 500,000 worms which have the capacity to process 500 pounds of organic waste a month.
Puntacana Resort & Club, through the Puntacana Foundation, built the Puntacana International School to provide quality, bilingual education to students of the growing Punta Cana community. It is a private school with over 400 students and is in the process of receiving U.S. and European accreditation. Children of Punta Cana employees pay a scaled tuition based on the parents’ earnings, allowing for a unique setting where the children of executives learn side-by-side with children of gardeners. Since 2000, the International School has provided over 600 children with a bilingual education.
In 2004, Puntacana Resort & Club, also through the Puntacana Foundation, built the Ann & Ted Kheel Polytechnic School, the only public high school within 50 square miles of the Punta Cana International Airport. The Polytechnic School offers affordable, quality secondary education with an emphasis on technical skills to over 350 students a year from the nearby towns.
The school has eight classrooms equipped with computers as well as physics, chemistry and biology labs. Students take general computer classes and are trained on software applications commonly used in the workplace. They are also offered programs in plumbing, electrical wiring, informatics and tourism. In June 2008, the school offered specialized courses with emphasis in technical skills, maintenance, repairs and information technology that graduated 20 students.
Admission is merit based and tuition is nominal, in accordance with Puntacana Resort & Club’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and its desire to make education accessible to all local youth, regardless of family income. So far the Polytechnic School has graduated 52 students.
In recognizing the need for improved health care in the community, Puntacana Resort & Club, through the Puntacana Foundation, reached out to different partners to form a five-year, multi-sector agreement to co-manage the Rural Clinic of Veron. The clinic is the only primary care health clinic within 50 miles of the Punta Cana International Airport and is the only service accessible to the poorer communities in the area. With the assistance provided by Puntacana Resort & Club and their partners, the clinic was upgraded in Dominican government status from “Rural Clinic” to “Regional Hospital.” The clinic now sees approximately 50-70 patients a day in a community of 25,000-35,000 people.
Grupo Puntacana maintains affiliations with a diverse group of institutions that confirm its commitment to sustainable development. The resort is a founding member and has served on the governing council of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) since its inception. Grupo Puntacana is a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative, and has made a yearly commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative since its inception in 2005. Grupo Puntacana also serves on the Network of Businesses for the protection of the environment in the Dominican Republic (RENAEPA).
In September 2008, Puntacana Resort & Club received the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler World Saver’s Award in recognition for their overall conservation and eco-initiatives. In 2007 Grupo Puntacana, through the Puntacana Ecological Foundation received the annual prize for Corporate Social Responsibility from the American Chamber of Commerce in Dominican Republic. The Ecological Foundation also received the Prize for Excellence in Environmental Protection from the Brugal Foundation, which includes a donation of $30,000USD.
In October 2007, Six Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club achieved the prestigious Green Globe Benchmarked Bronze status under the globally recognized Benchmarking program. This program recognizes the resort’s commitment to operating to the world’s highest environmental standard. Through this award, Six Senses Spa at Puntacana Resort & Club was honored for its continual effort to benchmark its energy and water consumption, total waste production and community commitment; along with implementing an integrated environmental and social policy.
And in December 2007, Puntacana Resort & Club’s Tortuga Bay also received the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World Commitment to Excellence Award acknowledging hotels whose concept of service extends beyond their immediate walls, and whose exceptional efforts exert a positive impact on our world in the areas of the environment, community outreach and cultural support. Tortuga Bay received this award for the resort’s expansive efforts in the areas of water conservation, land preservation, marine life protection, and its work for the Network of Businesses for the protection of the environment in the Dominican Republic. We should mention the listing in Island Magazine as one of the top 100 socially responsible resorts. Need to look up the exact title/date.
The development of Puntacana Resort & Club dates back to 1971 when Dominican businessman and hotelier Frank R. Rainieri and Theodore W. Kheel, the prominent New York attorney and labor mediator, created a partnership to construct a resort and real estate community that respects the natural habitat of Punta Cana while offering a world-class vacation experience. Maintaining a dedication to sustainable tourism, Puntacana Resort & Club has since grown to encompass over 26 square miles and now includes Tortuga Bay, Six Senses Spa, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, three residential communities (Corales, Hacienda and Arrecife), a full service marina, seven restaurants, a shopping village, a P.B. Dye-designed golf course, and Punta Cana International Airport, a modern facility that incorporates innovative and eco-friendly design. In 1997, Julio Iglesias and Oscar de la Renta joined the Group as co-investors and have made Puntacana Resort & Club their home. Currently, Punta Cana is the most highly visited Caribbean destination and is easily accessible from all over the globe.
The Puntacana Ecological Foundation (PCEF) is a non-profit foundation established in 1994 by the Grupo Puntacana to protect and restore the natural resources of the Punta Cana region and contribute to the sustainable development of the country. The Foundation is endowed with a 1,500-acre ecological park and reserve, filled with an array of local flora and fauna, experimental gardens, and a petting zoo. The Puntacana Ecological Foundation works directly with the Puntacana Resort & Club and numerous partners and researchers from around the world (such as researchers from Harvard, Columbia and Cornell Universities) to protect and contribute to the rational use of natural resources and respect for nature as a model for the sustainable development of destinations. Major projects include providing education and health care to the local community as well as protecting and conserving the area’s coral reefs.
For further resort information and reservations, please call 888 442 2262 or or visit Puntacana.com