The Dominican Republic has been in the news a lot lately, but not for the reasons its tourism industry would like. The tropical island getaway, home to miles of fabulous beaches and countless resorts, grabbed headlines recently following a spate of suspicious Dominican Republic deaths and one very high-profile shooting.
In case you missed it, several American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic this year, under largely mysterious (but not necessarily malicious) circumstances. Most recently, an otherwise healthy Denver man fell suddenly ill and died in a Santo Domingo hospital after his symptoms forced him to disembark his flight home.
[st_related]Is the Dominican Republic Safe? What You Need to Know[/st_related]
In all, nine American tourist Dominican Republic deaths have occurred in 2019. The minister of tourism insists that number is fairly normal, and, to be clear, there’s no indication of foul play. Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic are considered safe to travel overall, although travelers are encouraged to take some common sense precautions.
Still, the spate of these odd Dominican Republic deaths and their connection to the tourism industry has people rattled, and that feeling was exacerbated when Red Sox legend David Ortiz was shot point-blank Santo Domingo in early June.
After Dominican Republic Deaths, Delta Offers Free Cancellations
Fair or not, travelers are paying attention: Travel industry researcher ForwardKeys reports that flights to the Dominican Republic are down 74 percent this month. The organization says bookings were up slightly through May, but the trend of bad news and the high-profile incident with Ortiz appears to be influencing travelers’ decisions.
Other airlines are also taking note. Delta waived change fees for flights to Punta Cana through August 15, and according to several sources (but nowhere to be found on the airline website), JetBlue is allowing passengers to cancel or change their flights without a fee. Given the lack of clarity coming from JetBlue, I’d recommend calling the airline to get further confirmation about canceling a ticket because of the Dominican Republic deaths.
American and United encourage concerned customers to contact the airline, and both say they are working on a case-by-case basis.
Readers: Would you travel to the Dominican Republic right now? Are you unnerved by the recent deaths, or does seem like an unfortunate series of coincidences?
More from SmarterTravel:
- Living in the Dominican Republic: An Expat Speaks Out
- 10 Safety Mistakes Women Shouldn’t Make When Traveling Alone
- 10 Travel Safety Tips You Can Learn from the CIA