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Dominican officials to launch LGBT tourism campaign

A Dominican advocacy group is working with government officials and travel industry representatives on a campaign designed to promote LGBT tourism and gay rights in the Caribbean country. Members of the Center for Integrated Training and Research, a Dominican advocacy group known by the Spanish acronym COIN that has fought the AIDS epidemic in the country and throughout the Caribbean for more than two decades, on Monday will meet with representatives of the Dominican Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Police at the JW Marriott Hotel in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. Representatives from the country’s travel industry and a staffer from Human Rights First, a Washington-based human rights advocacy group, have also been invited alongside members of the media. Bob Satawake, the husband of gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the meeting. Charlie Rounds of Out Think Partners, a California-based group that seeks to promote LGBT tourism by working with corporations and non-profit advocacy groups, met with representatives of the Dominican tourism sector in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana and Samaná in the days leading up to the meeting. John Waters, medical director of the Center for Integrated Training and Research, told the Washington Blade last week during a Skype interview from the Jamaican capital of Kingston that the official launch of the campaign will take place in May. “One of the purposes of this project is to see the value added that community groups can bring to the tourism project,” he said. “[It] also [seeks] to explore ways in which the tourism and travel sector can actually support the work of civil society and the LGBT community more specifically.” Waters also co-chairs the Jamaica-based Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, a consortium of groups that seeks to expand health care, HIV-prevention programs and related services to LGBT people and other marginalized groups throughout the region. He told the Blade he feels the Dominican Republic is a good place to implement such a program in the Caribbean. Homosexuality is not criminalized in the Dominican Republic, unlike many English-speaking countries in the region. The nation’s immigration laws also allow gay men to enter the country, unlike those found in Trinidad and Tobago and Belize. Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone also contains a number of gay bars, clubs and other establishments along with the cities of Santiago and La Romana. Puerto Plata and La Romana are among the other Dominican cities with visible LGBT scenes. Waters noted there a number of gay and gay-friendly hotels and resorts throughout the country. His organization also operates a café and a tour and event-planning agency that he said could “help jump start” the campaign’s work. “One of the things that we’re hoping to do with this project is strengthen the networking and the information about LGBT tourism in the Dominican Republic,” said Waters. He added the campaign “will be done in conjunction with these groups who have a lot of knowledge as to how to maneuver and how to best manage things in the Dominican Republic.” Advocates hope to expand campaign to other Caribbean countries The Santo Domingo meeting will take place less than six months after travel industry representatives met with Waters and other LGBT rights advocates from Jamaica, the Bahamas, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Belize at Celebrity Cruises’ Miami headquarters to discuss ways they can support advocacy efforts in the Caribbean. Both Waters and Dr. J. Carolyn Gomes, executive director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, told the Blade they feel the campaign could prove successful in other Caribbean countries. “We’ve managed to get together a very broad-based but important grouping that needs to buy into the concept, that needs to be aware of everything that’s going on and that needs to be then selling it back, refining it and making sure it works,” said Gomes.


February 2, 2015

Category: DR News |

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