Nancy Illman’s picture show

Travel World features Tubagua

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Fashionable South Coast Plaza shoots catalogue at Tubagua

South Coast Plaza, a designer mall in California, last year used Tubagua and the sugarcane plantation town of Montellano as a backdrop for their Spring catalogue. Back in California, it turns out that some socially sensitive Mercedes owners gave the mall some flack about flashing so much bling in front of poor people. But quite the opposite, the locals seemed to enjoy the pretty girls, the pretty clothes and SC Plaza’s ready generosity… Click here for pictures

Tubagua becomes a movie set for feature film ‘The Good Heart’

Veteran actor Brian Cox prepares for a scene in The Good Heart

Veteran actor Brian Cox prepares for a scene in ‘The Good Heart’

Last April, a feature film production chose Tubagua to shoot several Caribbean coffee plantation scenes. The crew, from Iceland, stayed at the ecolodge and turned the next door neighbors’ home into a movie set. Both the director, Dagur Kari and renowned actor Brian Cox immediately took our neighbor, Leida, an elegant yet shy woman with indigenous Taino Indian traits, who ended up replacing what the script called for, “a jolly Bahama Mama”, and courageously acted out a number of scenes. The screenplay won a Sundance Film Festival award in 2007 and premiered in 2009 at Toronto Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. Click here for pictures

Tubagua embraces National Geographic’s geotourism charter

In addition to adhering to the values of this international charter, Tubagua is lobbying Dominican Republic officials to become the first Caribbean country to  get on board

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place’s character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin,—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place.

The Geotourism Charter: Governments and allied organizations that sign this statement of principles take a first step in adopting a geotourism strategy. Download the Geotourism Charter (PDF). After committing to a geotourism strategy, signatories then work with local communities to determine their geotourism goals.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism, like a doctor’s code of ethics, means “First, do no harm.” It is the foundation for destination stewardship.

Sustainable tourism protects its product-the destination. It avoids the “loved to death” syndrome by anticipating development pressures and applying limits and management techniques that preserve natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal, and local culture.

It conserves resources. Environmentally aware travelers patronize businesses that reduce pollution, waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and excessive nighttime lighting.

It respects local culture and tradition. Foreign visitors learn local etiquette, including at least a few courtesy words in the local language. Residents learn how to deal with foreign expectations that may differ from their own.

It aims for quality, not quantity. Destinations measure tourism success not just by numbers of visitors, but by length of stay, how they spend their money, and the quality of their experience.

What Is Geotourism?

Geotourism adds to sustainability principles by building on a destination’s geographical character, its “sense of place,” to emphasize the distinctiveness of its locale and benefit visitor and resident alike.

Geotourism is synergistic: All the elements of geographical character work together to create a tourist experience that is richer than the sum of its parts, appealing to visitors with diverse interests.

It involves the community. Local businesses and civic groups join to provide a distinctive, authentic visitor experience.

It informs both visitors and hosts. Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders. As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visit.

It benefits residents economically. Travel businesses hire local workers, and use local services, products, and supplies. When community members understand the benefits of geotourism, they take responsibility for destination stewardship.

It supports integrity of place. Destination-savvy travelers seek out businesses that emphasize the character of the locale. In return, local stakeholders who receive economic benefits appreciate and protect the value of those assets.

It means great trips. Enthusiastic visitors bring home new knowledge. Their stories encourage friends and relatives to experience the same thing, which brings continuing business for the destination.

Visit the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations web site

See a summary of resources and programs for countries/destinations to work with

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Voluntourism: Canadian kids do ‘extreme makeovers’ at Dominican Republic schools

There’s something about the Dominican Republic that’s hooked Judy Warrington.

In April, Warrington returned from her 18th trip to the impoverished Caribbean nation, which shares its island landmass with Haiti.

Dominican Republic may be a great spot for a vacation, but that hasn’t been its draw for Warrington.

“Despite the challenges of the rains, roads, lack of infrastructure, lack of hydro, running water, access to medical care, high costs, devaluing peso, they [the people there] still have a joy about them, a spirit about them, and a love of life. A happiness that really extends the warmest welcome to visitors,” she said glowingly.

“We teach our children not to speak to strangers. In the Dominican Republic, it’s the opposite.”

Warrington has always been interested in the service of others, which is why she founded Power Trips, a volunteer-run organization devoted to Dominican Republic’s development. She left her home in Oakville on Good Friday and stayed in the Dominican Republic for more than a month to lead two 14-day trips. The first one consisted of 80 people – 63 of which were students, and the rest, mostly teachers. The second trip attracted 30 participants from Strathscona-Tweedsmuir School in Calgary and Collingwood School in Vancouver.

It was the way the students preferred to spend their March Break.

“I considered coming on this project because I wanted to experience a challenge and make a change. I also felt like it was time to do something useful during my March Break instead of being a tourist in some country,” wrote student Andy Doyle in his assessment of the trip.

It’s a win-win situation.

When Warrington isn’t on the island, she is sending as much as she can in the way of school supplies and medical equipment. With the help of local schools, she’s sent two 40-foot containers. Nothing is too big (or too small)- Warrington will even accept teacher’s desks.

Warrington was introduced to international service opportunities at Appleby College, a member school of the Round Square. Round Square is an organization that leads students on the path to self discovery in ways that extend beyond the walls of the classroom. Warrington went on to lead students on trips to Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica.

In 2004, she created Power Trips as a legal entity. She says she chose Dominican Republic because of its closeness, and “the fact that it has as much poverty in some areas as I know there is in Africa.”

“What differentiates us from many other organizations is our interest in empowerment. We don’t want to create dependency on us,” she said.

“We do service that is smart, sensible, and sensible to the local community and its needs, that is going to lead to self-sustainability.”

Warrington is partnered with the Rotary Club of Oakville, as well as local organizations.

“They act as our guides, friends, direct line.”

During her last visit, the teams worked on four extreme school makeovers, including a women’s training centre, which entailed purchasing material locally, renovations, installing security bars and roofs, fixing “banyos” (bathrooms), making blackboards, shelving, painting, decorating, and hiring people to pour concrete floors. Sounds tiring, yes, but for Warrington, a retired teacher, it’s a typical day in the life.

With classes still running in March in the Dominican Republic, she and her volunteers ran tutorials for the children, and created safe children’s play areas – mud playgrounds was all they had.

She also partnered with two leading childcare health providers – The Dominican Institute for Integral Development (IDDI) and The National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) – to run health clinics. Dominicans were given free medicine, and thousands of toothbrushes and toothpaste were handed out. There was HIV testing, and workshops on the environment, garbage (a problem there) and sexual disease. An eye clinic was set up to identify children with clinical needs, and eyeglasses were distributed.

Dominicans were also given thousands of used soccer balls and uniforms.

Warrington was a teacher for 35 years, mostly in Halton and Peel. She’s taught at elementary school, secondary school, and a commercial re-training program at Sheridan College.

She’s been married for 43 years, and says she’s always been comfortable and privileged.

Her husband, an accountant with his own business, is also involved in her pursuits. He participated in the August project. Her daughter-in-law teaches at the University of Calgary and is hoping to develop a professional education program in the Dominican Republic, in conjunction with the University of Calgary.

Her projects have been a success with students, who accompany her on the trips. They visited a cigar factory, hospital, seniors’ centre, deaf children’s school, clinic and Mirabal Museum, and walked with a refreshed outlook on life.

Warrington no longer stays in hotels with her volunteers. The students weren’t comfortable in the kind of accommodation hotels provide.

“It didn’t fit,” said Warrington. Instead, they stayed at a retreat centre with basic and rustic lodgings. The views, however, were incredible – it’s located on the top of a mountain between Puerto Plata and Sosua.

Local cooks prepared Dominican cuisine during the trip.

“We are very careful about what we eat,” said Warrington.

Perhaps the only complaint the students really had in their evaluations was there weren’t enough vegetables.

Besides that, they walked away with a refreshed outlook on life.

“After this trip, I have a much greater appreciation for how much a small action can affect someone so much. I will also be much more willing to live in the moment and “go with the flow.” I have a feeling that these lessons will stay with me forever,” wrote Elizabeth Watt from St. Clement’s School.

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