Dominica is still struggling to attract tourism
Oscar co-owns the Rosalie Bay Resort with Deikel, his partner. Billed as a boutique eco-resort, it's easily noticeable by its giant windmill, which, when operative, provides enough energy for the entire resort and some of the surrounding area. Rooms at this relaxing waterfront gem go from $225 to $555 a night, and it's frequently listed among the top hotels and resorts in the world. It's not just the best place to use as a jumping-off point to explore Dominica's rugged wilderness; it's pretty much the only option.
A very brief history lesson: Dominica was once a major exporter of bananas to the UK, but as globalization spread and Chiquita could export more cheaply from South America, the agricultural economy here dwindled. Drumming up a thriving tourist industry has been a challenge -- the airport is too small for large jets from US hubs, so visitors hop a small plane from a neighboring island. Even with cruise ships making regular stops, the island gets fewer than 70,000 visitors a year.
Oscar and Deikel started their resort to help build up employment. "The intention was never to accumulate money or make profits," said Deikel, a former Minnesotan who fell in love with the island in her youth and has lived here for 20 years. "We're still pushing to make it a successful business. We've been at it for six years, spending money to keep it open. Because if we go, so does everyone in this area."
Rosalie Bay Resort is currently the biggest economic driver in Southeast Dominica, providing 80 full-time jobs for the 5,000 people who live in the area. Walking through the village of Morne Fragate with the man they call "Mr. Oscar" was like walking around with the mayor -- people approached him to chat and shake hands at nearly every roadside bodega.