The Real Facts You Need to Know Before Traveling to the Dominican Republic
Sensationalized media coverage of recent deaths involving American tourists in the Dominican Republic has undoubtedly hurt the popular destination's reputation and put a damper on the country's tourism industry.
Many reports have conflated unrelated incidents or posed unanswerable questions that only serve to scare travelers into clicking rather than provide them with the far less sexy facts.
While the mainstream media has largely moved on from the Dominican Republic, the damage has been done in terms of perception. However, travelers should know that the DR is not only safe but a fantastic destination celebrated for its world-class beaches and luxe all-inclusive resorts, among many other highlights.
Consider the facts: Despite the onslaught of negative headlines, the U.S. State Department hasn't issued an updated travel advisory for the Dominican Republic since April 15 and even the current Level 2 advisory is only due to crime mainly occurring outside of resort areas. "The development of a professional tourist police corps, institution of a 911 system in many parts of the country, and a concentration of resources in resort areas means these tend to be better policed than urban areas like Santo Domingo," the State Department points out.
Other Level 2 countries include Cuba, France, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Spain and the U.K.
What's more, the latest U.S. State Department statistics show that Americans are more likely to be killed in a homicide in the U.S. (5.3 per 100,000) than die of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic (0.58 per 100,000).
The figures are even trending in a much more positive direction than the media would have you believe. The number of Americans who died of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic dropped from 17 in 2017 to 13 in 2018 despite there being a 7.9 percent increase in U.S. visitors to the country between 2017 and 2018.
For additional perspective, 8 million Americans have traveled to the DR over the last four years alone.
This summer, Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia told media members that the U.S. State Department considered the news coverage exaggerated.
"We have unequivocally shown that there is not an avalanche of deaths of American tourists in the country and it is not true that there are mysterious deaths," he said during a press conference. "Our priority in the Dominican Republic is the safety of tourists, and increasingly, measures are applied to guarantee it."
When it comes to headlines suggesting the culprit is tainted minibars, García said Dominican authorities determined the deaths were due to natural causes. "We have our [toxicology] results, and we are at ease," he said during a press conference last week. "The Dominican Republic is a well-developed tourism destination. We have the best support for tourism infrastructure in the Caribbean. I personally have no doubt that good results will emerge from the FBI tests."
Prior to the media hype, the Dominican Republic was poised to shatter previous visitor arrival records in 2019 thanks to a booming hotel and resort sector and development beyond Punta Cana.
Apple Leisure Group (ALG) is doing its part to help ensure travelers know the Dominican Republic is a safe place.
ALG Executive Chairman Alex Zozaya recently told TravelPulse, "the Dominican Republic needs our help. It could be hundreds of thousands of jobs lost out of nothing. Absolutely nothing happened...there is absolutely no danger.”