Janet and I visited an all-inclusive resort at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. You know…that place where everyone has a drink from the mini-bar and then dies mysteriously. Or at least that’s what the media would have you believe. Feeling lucky, or maybe just ornery, one of the first things I did was have a drink from the mini bar in my room. I didn’t die. I did get sick though…sick of the sensationalistic media exploiting a handful of tragic tourist deaths. It seems that the media picks a new vacation destination each year to trash, and this year’s pick has been the Dominican Republic. Last year it was Mexico, and the year before that Jamaica. Every time it happens, tourism in the targeted destination plummets. The resort we stayed at was operating at just a 30% fill rate. And that’s a shame because these areas are beautiful and rely on American tourism dollars.
That isn’t to say bad people aren’t out there, or horrible things don’t ever happen to tourists. They are, and they do. But that isn’t limited to the Dominican Republic. Horrible things happen right here at home, but we don’t let that keep us from leaving the house every day. Our experience in Punta Cana was amazing…the people were so appreciative of our visit, and the area is absolutely beautiful. It is unfortunate that so many American tourists have cancelled their trips in the wake of the recent press reports. In fact, tourism is down so much some resorts have had to cut back staff, or even close down completely until business improves. Which it will. Just as soon as the media pivots to another vacation destination to bash, which they will.
To be sure each of these deaths were tragic, but they weren’t mysterious. In spite of what the press is focusing on, most of the people involved had pre-existing medical conditions that were cited as the cause of their demise in the official autospy reports. Over 2.4 million Americans visit the Dominican Republic every year, and out of the 12 or so tourist deaths in the past year which the media has dubbed “mysterious” only two actually were, and are being investigated by the FBI and local authorities…the couple from Maryland that were found dead in their room together.
I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s concerns about traveling outside of the country. Travel anywhere comes with inherent risk and at Tidewater Cruise and Travel we don’t pressure our clients to visit destinations they feel uncomfortable with. Only you as an individual can assess your risk tolerance, and I’ll post a follow-up to this with some useful and authoritative websites. These will help you assess both the risk associated with vacation destinations, and to sort out the fact from the hyperbole the next time the media decides to pick on a popular vacation destination, which they will.