Tourist deaths taking toll on Dominican Republic bookings

Travel advisors have been fielding calls from clients
concerned about the recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, and advisors
are rebooking some of those clients to other destinations.

“We have been getting lots of calls,” said Margie
Hand, an affiliate of Andavo Travel based in Birmingham, Ala. “So far I
believe about half of our Punta Cana bookings have rebooked to go elsewhere.”

That includes a 100-person wedding that opted to move the
event to Jamaica.

Hand said most clients are more concerned about the tourist
deaths than the shooting involving former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz,
because the shooting doesn’t appear to be random. Many of her clients have said
they plan to take safety precautions, like not going out alone. 

Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem,
Pa., said she is fielding a number of questions from clients seeking opinions. A
couple scheduled to stay at one of the Bahia Principe hotels where a tourist died switched to a different hotel in the destination.

In a recent email to a client with a December wedding booked
at a Punta Cana hotel, she encouraged the client to read reports and research
what was happening in the Dominican Republic. She said the media tends to
highlight tragic events, and pointed out that the U.S. Department of State hasn’t
issued any new warnings about the Dominican Republic since April,
placing it as the same level as many European destinations and other spots in
the Caribbean.

“We will not
discourage anyone from modifying or canceling current travel plans due to concerns
over the recent reports,” she wrote.

Doncsecz believes the
negative news will continue to circulate among consumers.

“I know many
agents have posted on Facebook groups that their clients have been bombarding
them with questions and concerns, so I do think this [will] have a similar
impact as the ‘tainted alcohol’ did in Mexico,” she said. 

Vacation packager Pleasant Holidays reports a few Dominican
Republic cancellations and “fewer than a dozen changes to vacations booked
to the Dominican Republic.”

“Pleasant Holidays continues to monitor the situation
and is waiving its change fees for travelers who wish to move their
reservations from the Dominican Republic to another destination,” said
Jeffrey Lee, Pleasant Holidays’ Caribbean product director.

Lee added that Pleasant Holidays’ Caribbean business
continues to thrive in 2019, with sales and passengers up double digits
compared to 2018.

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