Is the Dominican Republic safe?
Despite social media backlash, there is still good in the Dominican Republic.
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Over the past several months, the Dominican Republic has been experiencing intense scrutiny in the media. A spate of recent deaths among American tourists have caused many to question the safety of the island country.
While there have been at least 10 recorded deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic in the past year, the causes are unclear. A rising number of deaths are assumed to come from assaults by resort employees, unadulterated drinks from resort minibars, inadequate healthcare response, or possible exposure to pesticides (as yet unconfirmed). Three people have died due to respiratory and heart-related issues after consuming drinks in one resort.
The country has been watched closely since the end of May 2019, when several tourists deaths were covered in the media, and the nightclub shooting of Boston Red Sox slugger and DR-native David Ortiz in Santo Domingo made headlines worldwide.
The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is widely recognized as a destination for weddings and honeymoons. Merengue, rum, and Latin gastronomy are just some of the attractions that make it a frequent destination for tour packages. Similarly, its capital, Santo Domingo, is one of the oldest cities in the world.
The all-inclusive resorts and destination wedding sites have for decades drawn many tourists to the multicultural country — and the numbers have only been increasing in recent years. Back in 2008, a little over three million people traveled to the Dominican Republic. Today over 6 million U.S tourists visit the country per year, compared to one million back in 1995. More than 2 million of those tourists who visit the country on average are coming from the U.S.
Since June 1, resort reservations and flight bookings to the country from the U.S. have dropped 74% for July and August of this year, compared to what they were at the same time in the previous year. Some tourists have been debating whether or not to carry through with their vacation plans to visit the island due to the rising number of tourist deaths the country has seen.
Since then, social media has been inundated with posts and memes that encourage people to refrain from visiting or booking a trip to the country.
But many are also skeptical about the number of deaths that have been occurring in the country for the past year.
Some people have turned to social media aiming to prove to others that it is safe to vacation in the Dominican Republic.
Even with the alarming cases and the fear most people have, there are some who believe the Dominican Republic’s cultural beauty is worth the risk. Despite the widespread media coverage of the violence and health issues, there are still many U.S citizens booking their flights to the Dominican Republic.
Julissa Lora, a Philadelphia resident, vacationed in Punta Cana more than a year ago, in June 2018. Although of Dominican descent, it was Lora’s first visit to the country.
She remembers looking through the plane’s window and feeling mesmerized by the turquoise color of the waters. As she walked off the plane and stepped foot into the airport of Punta Cana she was immediately greeted by the workers and residents.
“I loved how we were driving around town before they took us to our resort,” Lora said.
Lora stayed at the Punta Cana resort for five days. She and her family enjoyed their stay at the Paradisus Resort, where they made a great connection with the staff and felt treated with respect. Lora said that she and her family did not feel that they had to be on guard at all times during her stay.
Despite the negative comments about vacationing in the Dominican Republic, Lora’s impression of the country remains the same.
“In my opinion, when you vacation in any country you are taking a risk. I am pretty sure that DR is not the only country where people are dying while on vacation. It just has not been spoken about,” she said.