In the wake of numerous mysterious deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic, flight bookings have plummeted. This June, bookings for July and August flights from the U.S. to the D.R. fell 74.3% year over year. In comparison, before reports of these deaths hit the news in April and May, bookings to the Dominican Republic were up 2.8% year over year.
In addition to fewer bookings being made, the number of flight cancellations to the Dominican Republic has jumped. Around 51.2% of flights books for future travel dates to the DR have been canceled. The day after a June 11th death was reported, cancellations jumped up to 70%.
So why are people canceling their trips to the Dominican Republic? Over 2 million American tourists visit this Caribbean nation a year. Although data shows that Americans are more likely to die in the U.S. than the D.R. and that tourist deaths have actually dropped in recent years, the nature of these latest deaths is cause for concern.
This year so far, five Americans have died of mysterious causes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
- In January, a seemingly healthy 78-year-old man died in Punta Cana. The cause of death was listed as pulmonary edema or fluid in the lungs.
- In May, a couple died of respiratory failure and fluid accumulation in the lungs while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
- Also in May, a few days before the couple died, a 41-year-old woman was found dead in a neighboring resort. Her death was determined to be a heart attack.
- In June, a 53-year old woman died at a resort in Punta Cana of a heart attack.
Although all these tourists died of natural causes, only the 41-year old woman that passed in May had a history of heart issues. The families of the other deceased claimed their relatives were healthy. The fact that so many people died of the same issues with no medical history related to it has raised many questions.
Both the US and the Dominican Republic have stated these deaths are not connected and are not the cause of foul play. That has not stopped tourists from worrying and canceling their trips, however. A common theory is that the liquor in the mini bars in the resort rooms may have been bootlegged. A few of the people that passed reportedly had drinks from the mini bar hours before passing.
Regardless of what causes the deaths, tourists are seemingly staying away from the Dominican Republic for now. The Bahamas and other Caribbean islands are so far benefiting from this.
Bookings to The Bahamas were up 44.5% in June, compared to up just 7% in April and May. Jamaica, which actually saw a decrease of 8.4% in bookings in April and May, was up 26% in June. Aruba also saw a jump of 31.3% in June.
Tourism will likely suffer in the Dominican Republic this year and may drop even further if deaths continue. Meanwhile, the Bahamas and other Caribbean countries will profit from this unfortunate situation.