Dominican Republic: Travel Expert Pushes Back on Media Hype
In today's 24-hour news cycle, television networks are standing by to report something at the drop of a hat. When it came to the Dominican Republic, many were lining up to discuss "mysterious deaths" that turned out to be not so mysterious after all.
There were a slew of stories from a variety of sources outlets conflating tourist illnesses, injuries and deaths at different hotels or resorts in different parts of the country as if they were the result of a nationwide conspiracy.
In June, travel expert Mark Murphy appeared on Fox News to combat the media hype casting the Dominican Republic in a negative light and subsequently devastating the destination's all-important tourism industry.
The news anchor establishes a problematic narrative right out of the gate, calling the string of reports "very strange." "You can't imagine that it's a coincidence that now we're talking four different people have died," she says, before burying the fact that there's been zero evidence of a connection between them.
"I don't know how those two totally different properties with different employees, management and ownership can have any connection whatsoever," says Murphy. "I think what's happening is that if something happened to one of your loved ones in the DR and now you're hearing about this sudden thing happening at the Bahia Principe, all of a sudden you're going to conflate those. I feel terrible for those families because their loved ones have passed away while on vacation, which is terrible, but literally that happens to hundreds and thousands of Americans every year as they travel."
Later, the anchor alludes to 67-year-old Robert Wallace's death at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana in April being mysterious since there was "no reason for his death given at this point."
Murphy quickly pushed back. "He arrived on April 10. He said he started feeling ill on the 11th and on the 13th he saw a doctor there and on the 14th he passed away. So this is not some sudden, random thing that came on. This is a man not feeling well who's 67 years old," he added.
The anchor responds by noting that the deceased tourist claimed to have drunk scotch from the hotel room minibar prior to his death. "Do you think that anyone is getting into the minibars and tampering?" she asks despite there being no reliable indication.
Murphy pushes back by pointing out that the FBI and CDC are on the ground and would be the most reliable sources to warn Americans in the event that they turned up any evidence that hotel minibars in the Dominican Republic were somehow being tampered with.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana has since been proactive in quelling any fears by removing liquor dispensers from guest room minibars. The Dominican Republic remains at a Level 2 on the U.S. State Department's travel advisory scale, with the most recent update coming in April.