The last several months have been difficult for the tourism industry in the Dominican Republic. As many as nine US tourists have died over the last year in the country at its different hotels. This string of deaths (some still unexplained) have gained global attention and many news headlines have been actively discouraging tourists from visiting the region. Yet, considering that over 2.5 million Americans visit the Dominican Republic every year and there have been less than 140 deaths of US visitors from non-natural causes between 2012 and 2019 (according to US State Department), this may actually be the perfect time to get a fantastic deal and spend your vacation here!
Let’s look in detail at the deaths that have occurred in the country and their circumstances. Six of these deaths took place in just three hotels – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta, Grand Bahia Príncipe La Romana and Luxury Bahia Príncipe Bouganville while the others took place in Terra Linda Resort in Sosua, Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana as well as at Sunscape Bávaro Beach also in Punta Cana. What has grabbed much attention is that everyone that has died at these hotels had been in good health before either falling quickly and heavily ill or being found unresponsive in their rooms. In more than half of the cases, the primary suspicion has been placed on alcohol poisoning. In one case, a guest at the Hard Rock hotel, Robert Wallace, became sick and died after drinking whiskey from his room mini-bar whereas in another, Miranda Schaup-Werner also died after using the mini-bar in her room at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville.
Indeed, both the New York Times and the New York Post have very recently reported that bootleg alcohol is the very likely reason for most of the deaths. Alcohol poisoning would explain the symptoms that have occurred in almost every case: sudden stomach illness, unresponsiveness, foaming through the mouth as well as respiratory and heart problems. Although several toxicology reports are still being conduced and their results may take several more weeks to become public, the hotels where the incidents have taken place like Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta have already implemented strict rules for alcohol handling and distribution.
All this leads us to the point on whether it is currently safe to travel to Dominican Republic? Yes, it is! I would argue that not only is it safe to travel to the Domincian Republic now as much as ever, but the bad PR that the country has recently received is actually an opportunity to get a sweet deal on a trip here and save a couple hundred of even a couple thousands of dollars. Firstly, despite the recent deaths, Dominican Republic has remained on level 2 (increased caution) on the State Department’s travel advisory list. This is because with over 2.5 millions of US tourists alone visiting the country every year, the 9 deaths do not represent (at all!) a statistically higher risk for visitors. If this does not assure you, consider that the main suspicion for the mentioned deaths has been placed on poisoned alcohol. If this is the case, all you have to do make sure you are safe is to purchase alcohol from verified sources or, even better, avoid it altogether during your visit!
Of course, drinking is often an important part of the vacation experience so if you do want to drink extensively and the 9 deaths scare you more than the reality of statistics, you may want to avoid Dominican Republic after all. Otherwise, consider that according to the Washington Post’s reporting: “ForwardKeys, which analyzes more than 17 million flight bookings daily, says news of tourist deaths “appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the destination.” With lots of US travellers either cancelling or avoiding the Dominican Republic, this is the perfect time for the reasonable and logical traveller to look for deals to this destination. Start your search now!