Punta Cana Feature
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Punta Cana: Then and Now
In 1972 the area that became Punta Cana was nothing but wilderness. Through the jungle, a trip by four-wheel-drive vehicle would take six to eight hours from Higüey, the nearest city (now the route takes about an hour by regular car). "When we arrived, the country did not believe in tourism," says Frank Rainieri, a cofounder of PuntaCana Resort & Club. At the time, there were only 962 hotel rooms in the entire Dominican Republic. Partnering with Club Med, the pioneer developers built the first hotel in the region, with a mere 20 rooms, followed shortly thereafter by an airstrip, thereby opening a window to the world beyond and planting the seeds of Punta Cana's emergence as the major vacation destination that it has become. In 1999 Grupo PuntaCana teamed up with Cornell University to form a biodiversity laboratory with an ecological reserve on its grounds; now it's not only a hub of research on the area's ecosystems and sustainability but also an indicator of the founders' ongoing commitment to these causes. Grupo PuntaCana also established a polytechnic institute to help teach the area's potential workforce the skills necessary to do the jobs related to the tourist industry. "It is not simply a resort, it is a community," says PuntaCana cofounder Ted Kheel. Indeed he, along with partners Rainieri, Oscar de la Renta, and Julio Iglesias, all have homes at PuntaCana.
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