A word

On behalf of the Tropicalia team, welcome to our 2020 Sustainability Report, which covers our social and environmental performance during one of the most challenging years most of us have ever experienced. As we pieced together the 10th edition of our annual sustainability report, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavy on our hearts; economic and social disruption, school closures, mental health challenges, and the loss of loved ones represents a collective pain that is not lost on us. These times, though trying, have also driven changes that would have taken years, if not decades to embrace; for example, the global movement to learn and teach primary and secondary school online; or the increased collective awareness required to prioritize climate change in public and corporate policy. Our commitment to report annually serves as a reminder that this exercise in and of itself is incredibly insightful, and allows us to meticulously reflect upon the risks we mitigated and the opportunities we embraced in the midst of this truly remarkable year.  

The first quarter of 2020, started smoothly. We were excited to have engaged our French-based construction partner, Bouygues Construcciones República Dominicana, and began early works on our site. We had diligently implemented our Stakeholder Engagement Plan; obtained full approval from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources regarding our environmental management plans; and signed our loan agreements with our Senior Lenders. By the beginning of March, we were fully positioned to begin land compaction and vertical construction on our site. Yet, parallel to our advancements, the novel Coronavirus spread to the Americas, with the first case of COVID-19 detected in the Dominican Republic on March 1, and by March 19, the government declared a national state of emergency, ordering nationwide closures of schools, hotels and restaurants, and the complete shutdown of its borders by air, sea and ground save for arrival and departure ferry flights for Dominican nationals and non-nationals.

Collectively, the world had no visibility as to how long this new normal would last nor how severe the pandemic would be for our health or economy. It was a time of great uncertainty for all of us. With regards to Tropicalia, after much debate we reluctantly hit “pause” on our construction efforts until we had a clearer picture of what was happening to our industry. Simultaneously, we moved quickly to secure the safety of our staff and employees, implementing work-from-home policies and rolling out a COVID-19 safety protocol. Sadly, in order to ensure business continuity, by November we had reduced our workforce by 20%. We are grateful for our former collaborators’ contributions to our work and mission.

After the initial chaos that characterizes abrupt change, we waded in the calm of the storm and gradually identified the unique opportunities that were materializing. By the year’s end, we successfully brought to a close our loan and construction agreements. More importantly, we rallied support and excitement around a redesigned concept for our hotel and resort program that would suit the post-pandemic traveler and second-home owner.

Concurrently, our foundation, Fundación Tropicalia, made incredible strides to continue supporting the community during a time of particular need. We first responded to the pandemic by distributing facemasks and soap to the most vulnerable members of the community, and later we would repackage our annual summer camp, Soy niña, soy importante, by converting it into a remote program that delivered camp content in a box directly to our girls’ doorsteps. Despite the operational difficulties we faced, we were able to impact 3,323 members of the community by successfully implementing six programs throughout the year.

Certainly, 2020 tested all of us and  brought to the forefront a quality that has consistently and historically characterized our organization — RESILIENCY. As the Cisneros Group approaches its centennial under third-generation leadership, I was reminded of my father’s and grandfather’s legacies as they confronted, survived and thrived in contexts of political unrest, natural disasters and myriad risk. Today, this resiliency is renewed and reinforced time and again by our sustainable approach to business. In fact, our sustainability strategy is one of the main drivers for Tropicalia overcoming the risks posed by the pandemic.

The tourism industry will be among the first to bounce back when the world is fully reopened; and though this is great news, we are even more ecstatic to see a renewed emphasis placed on sustainability by world tourism leaders. According to a recent report by the World Tourism Organization, there’s general consensus that the “future resilience of tourism will depend on the sector’s ability to balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity.” Tropicalia has always occupied this space, and we are excited to stand behind a product that has the potential to improve so many lives while also respecting and restoring the environment. 

Thanks to all those who continue to support our journey.