Punta Cana is today a popular resort area in the Dominican Republic, located on the far eastern point of the country in the province of Altagracia and is one of the Caribbean’s most popular resort areas. Most of the tourists who come to the area are unaware that Punta Cana is not specifically the name of the whole area to the south of the airport where the very first hotel was built.
In fact, although the East Coast of the Dominican Republic is frequently referred to as Punta Cana, it actually encompasses several areas: (Cap Cana, Punta Cana, Cabeza de Toro, Bavaro, El Cortecito, Arena Gorda, Macao and Uvero Alto). Most of today’s resorts and hotels are located in Cabeza de Toro, Bavaro, Cortecito, Arena Gorda, Macao and Uvero Alto, but nearly all of them use the name “Punta Cana” in their branding even when they are not geographically located in Punta Cana.
In 1969 a group of American investors bought 30 square miles of undeveloped land bordering 5 miles of the east coast of the Dominican Republic in the province of La Altagracia. The land was pretty much just impenetrable jungle and bush with no access roads and only a handful of small, fishing villages dotted along the coast. But the beaches were some of the most beautiful on the island with their white sand, coconut palms, crystal clear waters and protective coral reefs. A few years later a Dominican entrepreneur Frank R. Rainieri joined them with his vision to create a resort community that respects the natural habitat while offering visitors a world class vacation experience. Señor Rainieri wisely decided to rename it Punta Cana.
In 1971 the first hotel was built in Punta Cana – the Punta Cana Club – which stood on the area now occupied by PUNTA CANA Resort & Club and in 1978 the French resort chain Club Med built a 350 room Club Med Punta Cana just north of Punta Cana Club. Sources reveal that attendants at the Punta Cana Club inauguration were laughing at Mr Rainieri and thought he was crazy to buy that land. It didn’t take so long to prove he was not wrong.
But the area was still pretty isolated. The nearest town, Higuey, took 6 hours to reach. A new road was needed. The Colgate-Palmolive Company, which was required to repatriate its local entities’ export earnings, became involved and the new highway was built making it possible to reach Higuey in 30 minutes thus connecting Punta Cana to the rest of the island’s road network.
In 1982, after 8 long years of negotiation with the Dominican government, Groupo PUNTACANA’ s primitive airstrip was permitted to be developed to accommodate full sized commercial aircraft. In a joint venture with Club Med construction began and in 1984 Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) was inaugurated with the first international flight (a twin turbo propeller aircraft) arriving from San Juan Puerto Rico. It was the world’s first privately owned international airport. Without it Punta Cana would not be what it is today. In that inaugural year the airport received 2,976 passengers, in 2009 it received just under 4 million.
By providing the infrastructure Groupo PUNTACANA have turned this once inhospitable jungle coastline into a booming industry responsible for a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Their sense of corporate responsibility is admirable – profits from the airport have been invested in community projects. Interest free educational loans, medical facilities, revolving loan funding for their worker’s housing and an ecological foundation to protect and preserve the land and marine life are all part of their mission to promote sustainable development.
In the meantime Punta Cana is continuing to grow with construction starting on the new Coral highway linking Punta Cana to La Romana airport bringing the journey time down from 90 mins to under 45. Punta Cana is today the largest and fastest growing tourist destination in the Caribbean and it is a popular holiday destination for people from all over the world. Punta Cana boasts more that 100 hotels & resorts and 30,000 hotel rooms spread across 40 kilometers of beautiful white sand beaches. In 2013 has been voted as best destination in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor. Its future looks even brighter…