New research shows that several unexplained deaths in the Dominican Republic have caused tourists to shy away from traveling to the country.
A report by ForwardKeys found that bookings made to the Dominican Republic at the beginning of June fell when compared to the same period in 2018. Travel to the country in July and August from the U.S. have dropped by 74.3 percent.
“My deepest sympathies go out to the families of the American tourists who have passed away,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president insights for ForwardKeys Their recent and tragic deaths appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the Dominican Republic. Our analysis of leisure travel shows a striking correlation.”
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In particular, three deaths at the end of May triggered the initial stall in travel, and two more deaths in mid-June caused a further slowdown. Research also shows that cancellations are up, jumping 51.2 percent between June 1-19.
While travelers are abandoning the Dominican Republic, they are not giving up on travel to the Caribbean.
Bookings have surged in other destinations, including Jamaica, the Bahamas and Aruba where reservations were down 8.4 percent, up 7 percent and down 3.5 percent, respectively, for the three destinations.
Now, things are different. For the period between June 1-19, bookings were up 26 percent, 44.5 percent and 31.3 percent for the same three destinations.
“The recent deaths have sparked an extraordinary level of media interest in the U.S., with many major news organizations reporting on the latest developments,” said Olivier. “It amounts to a dreadful image crisis for the Dominican Republic because the USA is the number one source market for tourism to the destination, and its economy is highly dependent on foreign visitors–17.2 percent of GDP and 39.1 percent of export revenue, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Since the latest death on June 13th, we see a further erosion of bookings and no immediate sign of recovery, so I hope the authorities are successful in providing explanations that will convince the American public.”
The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism is working to combat the negative press, noting that the U.S. State Department has not changed its travel advisory to the country and that the number of deaths is not, in fact, unusual.
“The Dominican Republic is a safe country,” Francisco Javier Garcia, the minister of tourism in the Dominican Republic, told reporters. “There is no such thing as mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic. There is not an avalanche of deaths.”
Travalliance president and CEO Mark Murphy has also noted that the deaths are not symbolic of an over-arching safety issue in the country:
“All of these disparate things that are trying to be tied together by sensational media can’t possibly be tied together. You can’t have killer minibars that are in multiple resorts with multiple owners and are, in many cases, hours apart from each other and think that there’s some connection. It makes no sense,” said Murphy.