Tourism in the Dominican Republic has evolved since the early 1970s into a sun, sea and sand destination characterized by all-inclusive hotels. Originally seen as a way to lift people out of poverty, the increasingly pervasive all-inclusive model has excluded Dominican entrepreneurs from the industry, leaving little benefits for local people.

The Puerto Plata Heritage & Arts Development Project was developed under the Dominican Sustainable Tourism Alliance, with an aim is to diversify the tourism offering and support the development of community-based sustainable tourism initiatives. The Dominican Sustainable Tourism Alliance (DSTA) is a program of the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance (GSTA), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

EplerWood International developed the Puerto Plata Heritage & Arts Development Project working in partnership with the Vermont Institute on the Caribbean to develop a community not-for-profit enterprise designed to highlight Puerto Plata culture to visitors, generate jobs and income based on local culture, underscore local community pride, establish linkages with the all-inclusive hotels, and help to build the community’s identity as a sustainable tourism destination.

After one full year, the Artesanos y Artisas Unidos de Puerto Plata (AAUPP) (United Artisans and Artists of Puerto Plata) are celebrating their successes and learning from their challenges. Two capacity-building workshops were held by Vermont artist, Bruce Baker, who helped artisans with product development and marketing strategies such as product display. A public call out to artists resulted in over 80 workshop participants and a membership of 32 artisans and artists, selected through a jury process.

Two successful sales events were held, on the Playa Dorada all-inclusive resort complex’s property and in Puerto Plata’s Central Park. These events were significant successes. Gaining entry to an all-inclusive property is essential in establishing a linkage between the local entrepreneurs and the all-inclusive industry. The event represented a success for the artisans and also was perceived as an opportunity to add value to the guests’ experience. Future weekly sales events will be held at Playa Dorada beginning in January 2010.

The successful actualization of the second AAUPP sales event, at Central Park, in the heart of the community, was also a significant milestone. In addition to tourists, many local and visiting Dominicans stopped in at the AAUPP display and were introduced to the project and to the people and artistic talent of the region. Noted Dominican dignitaries, Xiomarita Perez, Dominican National Director of Folklore, and Chiqui Vicioso, noted Dominican author, also visited the AAUPP display and expressed their support and enthusiasm for the project and its success in “underscoring local community pride,” a defined goal of the project.