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With recent reports of American tourists facing injuries, illnesses, and even death while on vacation to popular tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic, people have become wary of traveling to the Caribbean destination that typically gets millions of tourists a year. The sunny vacation spot is being avoided by travelers who fear becoming sick or worse -- being the victim of another fatality.

Here at TravelAwaits, we decided to get the scoop from professional travel guide Trish Hinds of The Travel Gals about whether or not it’s safe to travel to the DR given recent tourist deaths. Here’s an expert opinion on whether travel plans to the Dominican Republic should be put on pause, plus advice for enjoying a safe and affordable Caribbean vacation.

A beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

TravelAwaits: In light of the media coverage on the recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, what advice would you give to people who are either considering a trip to the Dominican Republic or already have one booked?

Trish Hinds: The first advice I would give is to not panic. Deaths from natural causes like heart attacks and strokes are somewhat common on vacation. There has not been a higher incidence of deaths in the past year as compared to previous years. The media attention has just been ramped up on these recent deaths due to the three people who died at the same resorts within days of each other. There are still thousands of people visiting the Dominican Republic every day and we have clients there pretty much every week of the year!

TA: Do you think the recent deaths in the Dominican Republic will have a drastic effect on people's interest in going there?

Hinds: I do think it will have a pretty drastic effect, as people tend to hear the news in headlines instead of actually reading the actual facts when things like this happen. As stated, these deaths are not out of the ordinary for a destination like the Dominican Republic, but unfortunately, people hear bad press and they just write off a destination completely. We’ve seen it happen in recent years with Mexico and it’s happening now with the DR.

TA: How many people do you typically have booking trips to the Dominican Republic? Is it more or less popular than other Caribbean destinations? Have you seen a decline in the number of Caribbean bookings since reporting on these tourists’ deaths began?

Hinds: The Dominican Republic is our second most popular destination after Mexico. It is pretty popular due to the ease of getting there and the price point. It’s probably the most affordable island that offers all-inclusive resorts. We haven’t seen a specific decline in Caribbean bookings, but definitely for the Dominican Republic. Most people are asking for Jamaica or the Bahamas, but what they don’t realize is if you eliminate Mexico and the Dominican Republic from your list of desirable destinations, your price can go up significantly for any other island.

Altos de Chavón in the Dominican Republic.
Altos de Chavón / Andrii_K / Shutterstock

TA: Have you personally had cases where people are canceling trips to the Dominican Republic due to everything that is happening in the news, or clients calling wanting to cancel their trips?

Hinds: Yes, we have had a half dozen or so clients who have moved their vacation from the Dominican Republic to another destination like Cancun or Jamaica. We have been able to reassure many clients, though, who are still planning to go and are not buying into all the media hype.

TA: What safety advice would you give someone who's planning on going to the Dominican Republic in the near future?

Hinds: I would not give them any different safety advice than I do for any destination, whether it’s in the States, Mexico, or the Caribbean. You should always use common sense and make sure that you are not leaving your drinks unattended, always check for safety seals when drinking out of the mini bar, don’t go to places without a buddy or family member, whether it’s within your resort or off-site, especially after dark. I do not recommend driving in island destinations or Mexico, although many people do and feel comfortable. Book tours with reputable companies that are recommended by your travel agent. Don’t drink the water or even use it to brush your teeth!

Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

TA: What are your thoughts on vacationing in the Dominican Republic in general and how it compares to other destinations in the Caribbean?

Hinds: I think the Dominican Republic is a beautiful destination with amazing beaches, luxury resorts, and much to see and do. The people there are warm and welcoming as they are in most places that rely on tourists for their economic livelihood. It’s astounding to me to think that people actually believe that American tourists are being targeted on purpose, as I can’t really see what the motive for that could possibly be. I have been sending clients there for almost 20 years with no safety issues and only minor sickness reports. We have had some clients get sick after traveling there, but that honestly can happen anywhere when people are overindulging in alcohol, eating strange foods, traveling long distances, and maybe not getting the hydration and rest that they need. It’s a real shame that this is happening to this beautiful destination, and I hope that after the investigations are concluded people will accept that this can happen anywhere and unfortunately does all the time.

Hinds still encourages travel to the Dominican Republic and tells travelers to practice typical travel precautions. However, if you still aren’t feeling at ease about exploring the Dominican Republic (which, like Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and many other popular tourist destinations, has a Department of State Level 2 travel advisory as of April 2019), no pressure. There are plenty of destinations worldwide that offer sunny skies, soft sand, and a serene stay!

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