Punta Cana, a summer destination that is committed to ecotourism

This is the Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, with a cozy atmosphere that invites you to relax and far from the hustle and bustle that is usually found in hotels that offer all-inclusive, especially if you know how to choose well when you travel. If you choose to do it outside of the summer season, you could save on lodging.

The hotel facilities face the sea and have more than seven kilometers of trails, where you can walk, run or ride a bicycle. You can also lie down in one of the hammocks or chairs located on the white sand beach, which covers about three kilometers. If you do not want to rest or sunbathe, another option is to recreate yourself by doing water sports.

Nature lovers can delight in swimming in the fresh waters of the springs at the Ojos Indígenas Ecological Reserve or hiking in the tropical forest that covers 1,500 acres of land, a space dedicated to environmental conservation, scientific research and recreation.

There is also the aviary where you can observe endemic and native birds, as well as other migratory species. Before climbing to the observation tower, you will cross the sparrowhawk trail. For the tour to be fruitful and to be able to see some of the birds in their habitat, it is recommended to use binoculars. They will offer them to you before starting.

Before starting the day, if you plan to venture out to see everything the complex has to offer, be sure to enjoy a succulent buffet-style breakfast with the typical Dominican dish ‘three hits’, which includes mangú, fried cheese and the protein of your choice. There is also a selection of fresh fruits, natural juices, coffee and even desserts.

If you are interested in ecological tourism, know that efforts are made in this tourist destination to protect the environment. The Sustainability Center of the Grupo Puntacana Foundation was created in 1999 with the purpose of researching, educating and seeking solutions to the social and environmental challenges that tourism development implies in the region.

“We focus on sustainability. We are working very hard on everything that has to do with environmental care and responsible purchases. Yes, it has to do with energy care in general, the use of water energy and, of course, also with saving, food consumption and little waste. And it is not just that companies follow similar practices, but travelers themselves are demanding this more and more. We are asked about the subject more and more. The benefit is in taking care of what we have, which is our planet,” said Ricardo Caló, director of accommodation for Marriott hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“Many years ago, Marriott was founded under the motto of doing good in the community where we do business. That evolved and for years we have had the planet as one of our main ‘customers’ (priorities),” added the executive of the hotel chain.

Caló considers himself a nomad as a hotelier. He has developed an international career that has taken him to five countries from his native Argentina. Now he has settled in Miami with his family.

For the tourism sector in this region it is important to apply these practices because its growth also depends on favorable environmental conditions.

“In destinations like this or in Central America there is very strong awareness about this issue, because they depend a lot on the ecosystem to be able to continue developing their business in hotels. We have partnered with an organization that has helped us obtain professional metrics. With that we have set immediate objectives for the development of all these items. And we have a commitment to achieve them. There is a person in charge of these activities at the regional level. We also appointed someone in each hotel to carry out this plan and support that objective. It is our greatest interest to be able to achieve it,” Caló explained.

Westin guests can take a tour of the Sustainability Center of the Grupo Puntacana Foundation, if you want to learn more about the work they do there or live an ecological experience.

In addition to the bird watching tour, there is the iguanarium for those who wish to observe iguanas. There you will also learn about the fascinating functioning of bee colonies and the important role of this species in the environment. Bees are considered the largest pollinators on the planet. After learning about the hierarchy and way of life in hives, you will be able to taste the honey they produce. If you like what you taste, you can buy honey at the end of the course. They also sell coconut oil among other organic products.

Another option for ecotourism activities offered by this destination is to visit the Marine Innovation Center. Located on the coast, they develop conservation, research and restoration projects for marine species. One of the investigations is on sargassum and the benefits it could provide to the soil. Coral bleaching in the area is one of the main concerns. But they are in charge of regenerating the coral reef, a gradual process.

Once back at the resort, you may be greeted by the general manager, Jordi Figos, always ready to help and with a wide smile on his face. Upon arrival you are offered a delicious cocktail to refresh yourself.

“The vast majority of hotels carry out these types of initiatives, but human beings are moved by emotions, by experiences. That is why we designed, together with the foundation, a tour called Eco Journey, where they have an hour-long tour of the Sustainability Center, the Marine Research Center, and the orchard. And then they have 40 minutes at Ojos Indígenas, which are cenotes with crystal-clear water. A tour of the Caribbean jungle. At the Westin we are developing a small orchard for children to plant and when those plants grow, other children will transplant them,” said Jordi Figos, a Spaniard whose hotel profession brought him to this Caribbean destination.

“The fact that there is a barrier on the beach where you can see that they are replanting coral motivates them to come back again and again. The barrier limits access to the sargassum. There are several initiatives to protect the coast and marine fauna. When the sargassum dies, it sediments and takes away oxygen from the water. So, one of the prevention measures is the barrier so that it does not enter the coast. There are boats that then collect it on the high seas, there are people with rakes collecting in the water and we also have mechanical collection. This is taken to a collection center. We have managed to send it to Finland, where they are doing studies to treat the sargassum and see if it can be used for composting when it drops to the level of salt it contains. And these are initiatives that our clients can see live and direct on the beach,” he added.

Another environmental project in which they invest is the installation of solar panels.

“We generate our electrical energy. A German company will develop a solar park to cover 50 percent of the resort’s electricity demand. We also manage the water supply and the treatment plant, which allows us to control recycling, what to do with the sewage, which we reuse for the golf courses; It is treated and reused for irrigation. Irrigation water is not from a well, we do not waste water. We recycle drinking water. “That is giving back to nature and the environment, because we dispensed with certain areas of vegetation to build a hotel, but in some way we want to give back to the environment and society something that is sustained over time and that does not consume our resources,” he commented. Figs.