The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism released a statement in response to news reports concerning recent deaths of 10 U.S. visitors to the island stating, “The Ministry’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that the highest industry standards are met so that all tourists are safe when visiting…and provide a definitive answer to the afflicted families.”
The statement notes that the National Police Department, in collaboration with the Ministry, National Hotel Association (ASONAHORES), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), are working to complete the investigations. The Ministry is also working with ASONAHORES to reinforce safety conditions and quality control in food, beverages and other areas.
Meanwhile, neither the CDC or the U.S. State Department has issued a warning related to the recent deaths. A U.S. Department of State official told Prevue that the Travel Advisory for the Dominican Republic remains at a Level 2 (as it has since April), advising U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime. “Local authorities report they have not found a connection between the cases during the initial stages of their investigation. Should we learn of safety risks to the public through the investigation, we will share that information.”
What Meeting Planners Are Saying
We asked meeting planners how they and their clients view the recent events.
Jay Ellenby, president of Safe Harbors, reported, “We are working on a large sports event in the DR and have not noticed any negative feedback or reduction in attendance.”
Eduardo Chaillo, global general manager of Latin America, Maritz Global Events, said he has been hearing concerns. “However, we think we need to stick to the facts, to wait for current investigations to be concluded and to put into these unfortunate situations into context.… In the last five years, the country has received almost 30 million tourists and the reported cases represent a very small percentage of the people who have visited the Dominican Republic.
“We encourage clients and meeting professionals to do serious research, partner with local experts and keep their incentive program plans as they are, as the Dominican Republic has been a safe country-great destination for years, and there is no statistical evidence to indicate that there is any threat to the safety of the participants. As always, it is advisable to take the normal precautions that any tourist should take when visiting any country in the world to minimize the possibilities of running into a negative situation.”
“We have great local resources that help us serve our clients in the DR: we have a wonderful company as a member of the Maritz Global Meetings Network, which is Connect Travel Services DMC , and we are in continuous communication with the Ministry of Tourism, and their meeting market director Amelia Molina.”
However, Cate Banfield, vice president, solution design & strategy for BCD Meetings & Events, said, “For the most part, customers share the same concern we do in that no one is quite sure what the root problem is to date.… It is important to deal with these concerns through open dialogue with our customers, focusing on the facts, communicating with our local in-market partners to understand these incidents and why they are happening and what is being done, and ultimately helping our customers relocate should they feel the risk is too high for them at this time. Our hope is that this situation will find a resolution soon and that DR will be able to welcome groups to its beautiful country without any uneasiness in doing so.”
Facts about Tourism to DR
According to statistics reported by the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic:
- In 2017, the rate of tourist incidents was 1.6 per 100,000 visitors. In 2018, that rate dropped to 1.4 per 100,000 visitors.
- In 2018, 6.6 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, of which 3.2 million came from the United States and Canada.
- Almost 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic in the last five years.
- According to a poll carried out in 2018 by the same institution: 99 percent of the tourists from the United States said they would return to the country on vacation and 94 percent evaluated the tourism services as excellent; 94 percent of the tourists from Canada said they would return to the country and 97 percent evaluated the tourism services as excellent.