The Dominican Republic’s tourism ministry introduced a new commission last week aimed at reassuring potential visitors after at least 10 people died in resorts throughout the country earlier this year and tourism numbers took a nosedive.
The new initiative, the National Committee of Tourism Security announced, combines public agencies and private enterprises to target several issues of concern, including food and beverage safety as well as doubled inspection capacities in tourist areas.
While some of the tourist deaths were attributed to natural causes, that didn’t stop people from changing their travel plans. Following the deaths, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation to see if fake alcohol may have been involved.
Following the tumult, bookings to the country for the months of July and August dropped by more than 84 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to a report by ForwardKeys.
But Francisco Javier Garcia, the Dominican tourism minister, insisted that all “we want is the truth to come out.”
“The question… that anyone would logically make is, is the Dominican Republic a safe destination?” Garcia told Travel + Leisure through a translator. “We want to invite everyone that has any… apprehensions about the Dominican Republic.”
As part of the new measures, Pablo Espinal, the chief of staff at the Ministry of Tourism, told T+L cameras will be installed in the public areas of all hotels and they will be connected to the country’s 911 system. The government will start inspecting hotel security systems in the next few weeks, he said.
In terms of food and beverage — including alcohol — Espinal said inspectors are being re-trained and will be certified under international standards. The first round of training has already been completed.
The Department of Tourism Services and Companies will also monitor hotel medical offices as well as all aquatic facilities. Emergency information will be posted in each hotel room, and staff will be required to go over that information with guests when they check in.
Additionally, a multilingual emergency center will be set up in Punta Cana to assist tourists and “streamline communications” between the visitors, their families and the government, according to the country.
Robin S. Bernstein, the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, told T+L that because of the measures taken after what was a tourism “crisis,” she now feels the Dominican Republic is safer than it ever was.
“It is an unfounded, negative campaign… they are unrelated cases,” she said. “My children come here, my friends come here. I think it is one of the safest places, tourist destinations that I have ever visited.”
If you do decide to go to the Dominican Republic — an affordable family vacation spot — you can sip coffee in the historic quarter of Santo Domingo or relax on the pristine beaches of Punta Cana (sounds dreamy to us).