Apple Vacations' President Talks Current State of Dominican Republic Tourism
John Tarkowski, Apple Vacations’ president, spoke to TravelPulse about the current state of Dominican Republic tourism following months of speculation surrounding tourist deaths in the country earlier this year.
He also told us how Caribbean specialists are the main defense against sensationalized media reports.
Here's what he had to say.
TravelPulse: Please provide an update on the Dominican Republic, based on what ALG is seeing. Are people still avoiding the destination? Or is the panic subsiding a bit?
John Tarkowski: The destination has been out of the news cycle, and we are seeing some resurgence, but this is primarily driven by aggressive discounting and is not sustainable in the long term.
We are confident that a service-oriented destination like the Dominican Republic, which consistently receives high scores in our vacation satisfaction surveys, will ultimately see a full recovery. The only question is how long it will take.
We’re undertaking several initiatives to stimulate demand. Travel advisors can help us deliver the message that there is no credible reason to deprive oneself of a memorable vacation in the land of Merengue.
With some of the best deals and incentives ever to hit the market, this is without argument the best time to book an all-inclusive Dominican Republic getaway for your clients.
TP: How important is it to get the facts correct when talking about such a serious subject? How harmful can sensational news reporting be for a destination's tourism product?
JT: Unfortunately, the fact-based reporting that used to be a core tenet of the press seems to be increasingly rare these days. The shift to digital appears to have created an environment where success is determined by clicks and sensationalist headlines have become the dominant business model.
In some cases, a misleading title might be paired with an article, which backtracks from the click-bait headline, but we know many people won’t actually read the full story and will instead form opinions based on inaccurate summaries. Misleading narratives rob consumers of the truth and tarnish the overall credibility of the media.
In this case, it’s also done a grave injustice to the hard-working people of the Dominican Republic, where tourism is the largest contributor to [gross domestic product] and one out of every three jobs is linked either directly or indirectly to tourism. As travel professionals who have sold countless incredible vacations to the Dominican Republic, it’s up to us to set the record straight.
TP: What have you been telling people who have concerns about the D.R?
JT: Our message to travel advisors has remained consistent since day one. We are fighting against a click-bait driven narrative and our best assets are transparency and credibility.
The truth is on our side and we can leverage every selling point that has traditionally motivated Apple vacationers to choose the Dominican Republic for their getaways. From the warmth of the people to the value and affordable luxury offered by our all-inclusive resort partners, these remain compelling reasons to visit today.
And, unlike the unsubstantiated reports that hindered tourism, there are countless reviews, testimonials and advisors’ own first-hand experiences that support what we all know to be true.
TP: What are some examples that you've seen where the news was exaggerated or sensationalized?
JT: The majority of examples seem to share one common theme—the suggestion that a handful of isolated incidents in a destination that receives more than six million tourist arrivals annually somehow implies the destination is no longer safe.
TP: What should travel agents and tour operators be doing to spread the word that the destination is safe?
JT: Rely on truth and facts as well as your first-hand knowledge to add context and clarity. This is essentially what travel advisors do in the first place. Every supplier website and brochure is designed to make its product seem like the best choice. Clients rely on your expertise to determine which product fits their needs in order to make the best vacation decisions.
They come to you because they trust your advice. Comparatively, consumer trust in the media is at an all-time low. Be the voice of reason and your clients will listen. Tell them where they should go and what they should avoid. Your expertise provides the full perspective they may not get from sensationalist news outlets and social media.
The travFACTS.org website (a product of travAlliancemedia) is also a great resource advisors can leverage to ensure their customers have access to the real facts so that they can make informed decisions.