While D.R. bookings plummet, other Caribbean islands capitalize

A plane over Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
A plane over Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Gerisima/Shutterstock

Flight bookings to the Dominican Republic have plunged in the wake of the deaths of Americans staying at resorts, according to ForwardKeys, and other Caribbean destinations are benefiting.

From June 1 to 19, bookings for July and August flights from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic fell 74.3% year over year, ForwardKeys said. In April and May of this year, bookings to the Dominican Republic had been up 2.8%.

Also from June 1 to 19, Dominican Republic cancellations jumped 51.2% on bookings for future travel dates. Cancellations jumped 70% the day after a June 11 death was reported.

Meanwhile, bookings to other Caribbean destinations are spiking. Jamaica, which was down 8.4% in April and May, was up 26% from June 1 to 19. The Bahamas, up 7% in April and May, was up 44.5% from June 1 to 19. Aruba, down 3.5% in April and May, was up 31.3% from June 1 to 19.

Another tourist death in the Dominican Republic was reported this week, bringing the total to at least eight this year. Coverage has proliferated in the consumer media. While heart issues have been ruled the official cause of several of the deaths, their circumstances remain odd. In some cases, the victims reportedly took drinks from minibars before quickly falling ill.

In a statement this week, minister of tourism Francisco Javier maintained the country remains safe. He also said that the deaths were not mysterious, saying, "We have unequivocally shown that there is not an avalanche of deaths of American tourists in the country and it is not true that there are mysterious deaths."

Javier also said the Dominican Republic will implement an informational campaign "to communicate the truth about the country." He also said safety remains a priority.

ForwardKeys found that bookings to the Dominican Republic started to fall after three deaths that happened at the end of May. Bookings further fell after several June deaths were reported.

"My deepest sympathies go out to the families of the American tourists who have passed away," ForwardKeys vice president of insights Olivier Ponti said in a statement. "Their recent and tragic deaths appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the Dominican Republic. Our analysis of leisure travel shows a striking correlation."

Ponti said ForwardKeys has not seen signs of Dominican Republic bookings picking back up.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI