Website Attempts to Link Random Video to Tourist Deaths

travFACTS’ mission is to expose exaggerated or flat out misleading travel “news” that is consistently put out by media outlets. The June 19th Woke America article featuring a video demonstrating “tainted” alcohol is a reminder that bogus news is even more dangerous when it is enabled by social media.

travFACTS takes a look at this story below:

Media Outlet: Woke America

Date: June 19th

Headline: Fake Alcohol May be the Cause of Tourist Deaths in the Dominican Republic

Deck: Social media users are posting their concerns

Where the Story Fails

The article relies on an amateur video shot in someone’s backyard in an unknown destination as it’s main evidence that drinks “May be the Cause of Tourist Deaths in the Dominican Republic,” as the headline claims.

In the video, the contents in a bottle of Ciroc vodka are stirred until it becomes a thick, pasty substance. While this bottle is said to be a cheap knockoff of the brand, the article never even says whether legit Ciroc is even served at Dominican Republic resorts.

The headline, “Fake Alcohol May be the Cause of Tourist Deaths in the Dominican Republic” implies that this story will breakdown the evidence or lack of evidence to support this theory. In reality, this story has nothing to do with the Dominican Republic and more about how alcohol can be tampered with in general.

The deck implies that this story will include a slew of social media posts about drinking concerns in the Dominican Republic. Instead, the social media “concerns” were about the video demonstration and not about the Dominican Republic. In fact, the one comment they include in the story was about Ciroc in general and doesn’t even mention the Dominican Republic.

According to Woke America, “While this video is shocking, there have been official toxicology reports confirming a direct link to tourist deaths.”

We are going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume “have” in the first sentence is a typo, and should be, “haven’t.” After all, there have been no official toxicology reports released to date. This is an extremely dangerous error that most readers might not catch and treat as fact.

The article goes on to flat out admit that there is no connection between the video and the incidents in the Dominican Republic.

According to Woke America, “There is also no proof as to whether the alcohol bottles in the video are actually from the Dominican Republic or if the individuals in the video are on the island as well.”

The Actual Facts

Ciroc is a brand of vodka that is produced and distributed by the British-based multinational alcoholic beverage maker Diageo. It is not a liquor produced in the Dominican Republic.

Instead of relying on a second-hand video from an unknown source, travFACTS spoke to a travel expert who recently sipped from a minibar or two in the Dominican Republic. Susan Collins-Peavy, the owner of Massachusetts-based Susan Peavey Travel, was in the destination in June and again in August.

“Did I drink from the mini-bar? Absolutely,” said Collins-Peavy about her stay at Casa de Campo on June 20. “There was an assortment of cold beverages from bottled water to beer, to soda. All were sealed. There was a nice bottle of wine in my room too, again, sealed by a cork.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) last advisory to travelers heading to the Dominican Republic warned of the risk of rabies from cat and dog bites. Neither the CDC or the FBI have issued any warnings in regard to tainted alcohol, despite investigations dating back to May.

Lost amid the hype is the fact that Americans are more likely to be killed in a homicide in the U.S. than die of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic, according to U.S. State Department statistics reported by CNN.

While the Caribbean hotspot saw a sizable 7.9 percent increase in U.S. visitors between 2017 and 2018 the number of Americans who died of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic dropped from 17 in 2017 to 13 in 2018.

Last year, the odds of an American tourist dying unnaturally in the Dominican Republic was just 0.58 per 100,000. Citing Pew Research Center figures taking into account data from the FBI, CNN reported the rate of murders, homicides and non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S. was 5.3 per 100,000 as recently as 2017. That figure jumps significantly in places like Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis.

Currently, the U.S. State Department shows the Dominican Republic at a level 2 advisory, which is the same as other Caribbean hot spots, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Cuba. This level 2 advisory has been in place since April, and hasn’t changed, despite the negative reporting.

Other popular destinations worldwide with a level 2 advisory include Mexico, South Africa, Italy, Spain, India, Antarctica, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the Maldives.

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