Poverty and Tourism in the Dominican Republic
I recently went on a cruise that departed from Port Canaveral, Florida and traveled to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos. This trip was phenomenal to say the least, but instead of ranting and raving about the beauty and culture that both of these places have to offer, I would like to touch on a deeper issue; how poverty is taking over such incredible places that we commonly just associate with nature’s beauty.
The Dominican Republic makes a mass amount of their money off of tourism. This has its perks for people like myself visiting from other countries since the activities they offer are so tourist friendly, but it also has some massive downfalls.
One problem I really had with this trip was the blatant chaos that comes with living in a poor country. There is not a single place you can go where someone is not heckling you to buy something or attempting to sell you information. One thing that really bothered me was the incessant badgering from people wanting to “give me a tour”. I am a fairly independent woman who does mass amounts of research before traveling. I do this purposely to avoid tourist groups, avoid places to visit that are tourist traps, avoid getting lost, and avoid having to pay the extra expense of a tour guide. I spent this whole trip with people attempting to latch on to me, some even remaining after I had said no to their services, and then finally when I got firm these people, they had the audacity to ask me for money. They insisted even after I said no for at least five dollars for their lunch. If this had happened once or twice it would have been fine, but this happened to me nine times in the span of six hours.
Although it is heartbreaking that this is how these people must make money to survive, I was forced into services I didn't even ask for. So often I would walk into a local tourist attraction ready to explore, only to have someone insist to show me around. I would tell them I have no money to give you and every time they would say “no, no it is free”. After it was all done they still insisted on a tip even though their service was “free”. The continued insisting was something I was not accustomed to and shows the blatant cultural differences we have, since in America most commonly when one is told no that is the end of the conversation.
It broke my heart and overwhelmed me all at once. I want to support these people who are just trying to do the best they can for their families, but frankly I had only brought enough cash to pay our cab driver and tip him as well.
The other problem that astounded me in the Dominican was their trash and pollution issue. Their beaches and roads are completely littered with debris. In America, we are part of a country that is so focused currently on decreasing our carbon footprint and saving the planet and so it was appalling to see people care so little about that. I watched numerous times as people threw food wrappers into the water and saw piles of trash floating next to docked ships.
It reminded me that such beautiful places that we use for a “vacation” are still in a state where they can hardly focus on anything but making sure they can feed themselves. Eco-conscious problems do not even cross their minds and was so far off the radar.
The Dominican Republic is an exquisite country with hard working and caring people. I felt safe the whole time was there and well cared for. All of these shortcomings devalued the experience for me, but it did open my mind that the stigma we hold of these Caribbean islands being the “perfect getaway” that is worry free and paradise, still have daily lives that need improving and as global citizens it is our job to be aware of it and hopefully be able to helpful in overcoming these issues.
- Good Vibes and Adventure