Is it still safe to take vacations in the Dominican Republic in 2019?

After the mysterious deaths of several US-American citizens within a short period of time, many vacationers highly doubt that the Dominican Republic is still a safe country to go on holidays. Is their perception correct or is it maybe only collective hysteria created by the powerful US-American media manipulation? What are the causes? Even more interesting: What are the effects of all the incidents? I encourage you to read this article if you are curious about the opinion of a regular guy like me and how I can contribute to this topic with a little research and without being part of the mass media.

First things first, let me please introduce myself, and explain why I want to write this article. My name is Phil and I have lived for 6 months in Santo Domingo, the oldest capital on the American continent and at the same time the most heavily populated city in the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. Although I live in the same country where all these incidents happened, I can’t claim that I have insider information. The only thing I can do is analyze the given information and compare them with the regular tourism statistics. I can’t do magic or unravel the deaths of the US-American citizens. That’s not my goal, neither my task to play Sherlock Philmes here. It should be actually the job of every journalist to reveal all the information to create an objective article with high quality. But the media nowadays…

Let’s forget about this. I might be neutral enough to write about it. Neither am I Dominican, nor a US-American. That gives me a little distance from the hot topic. But I am not unconcerned either. I work for a Dominican DMC (destination management company) and the company suffers as well from several cancellations from US-Americans. Major fears are: “I don’t feel safe anymore” and “What if that also could happen to me?”.

This is a general risk which no one can take away from another person. Nearly every day, tragic accidents can happen to you. Most accidents happen at home, some on the way to work, several when you exercise and go to the gym and even during your working time you’re not spared from them. But if you visit a county that you didn’t know before, surely everyone has his/her concerns. Same with me – And I came to the Dominican Republic to stay for longer, not only for a ten-day all-inclusive vacation in a hermetically sealed resort. I need to live in this country and with all the circumstances of Santo Domingo (e.g. cleanliness, order, medical care, etc.) are even worse than in paradisiac appearing Punta Cana where international visitors encounter a highly modern and neat looking area.

US-Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic

To directly counteract against the negative news propaganda, it would be worth it to watch a powerful video with interesting content:

 

CNN writes, that Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic. Stunning information! For everyone who is too lazy to click on the link and read the article fully, I highlight the most important outcome:

The odds of a US visitor dying unnaturally in the Dominican Republic in 2017 was about 0.82 per 100,000. Those odds dropped even further last year to 0.58 unnatural deaths per 100,000 American visitors.

Source: CNN

If you take a closer look at the death statistics…

In this video, you will hear the Dominican minister of health speaking about the deaths. The US embassy in Santo Domingo says, that they have no proof that these deaths are related.

Sure…That’s what a minister of health has to say to defend his country in this situation, aight? But what, if he and the US-embassy in Santo Domingo would be right? What, if the death US-tourists are not related?

I found a very interesting article on the American Council on Science and health. They basically tried to answer the two questions I asked before: “Is It Safe to Go To The Dominican Republic?“ All data about US citizens who died out of the United States can be found publicly here:

Screen Shot 2019-07-08 at 9.46.56 PM.png
Non-natural US-American deaths in the Dominican Republic: from 2018 – 2018

What are non-natural deaths? According to its definition, non-natural causes of death include motor vehicle accidents, falls, suicides, homicides, drowning, poisoning, complications from medical or surgical treatments, and exposure to smoke and fire. These deaths are in total responsible for less than 10% of total all-cause mortality.

Source: American Council on Science and health

From these numbers of 2017, you can make a comparison between the Top-5 tourism destinations for US-American citizens.

Keeping in mind the caveats that (1) the non-natural death data includes not only tourists but business travelers and expatriates; (2) the non-natural death data includes accidents and suicides; and (3) the calculated mortality “rate” is just a rough estimate since Americans don’t generally spend an entire year in a foreign country. The numbers are pretty clear. Among the top five most popular tourist destinations for Americans, Mexico is by far the most dangerous (in 2017, anyway).

Source: American Council on Science and health

Well, 6.12 deaths per 1 million US-visitors – Is that now a good or a bad statistical result?

The coherence of African killer bees, shark attacks and the Dominican Republic

For me, this information is very interesting to see and shows – of course – the general failure of the US-American media. Whenever something produces interest to be able to create supreme hysteria to the US-American population, the effects on that related topic is drastic. Whether speaking about the African killer bees from the ’90s or – as mentioned in the video – Summer of the sharks from the early ’00, the US-American media created a class enemy, a major scare and anxiety because they were bored to death during their silly season in the summer. Nothing to report about? Let’s create something!

Unfortunately, this media frenzy continued for a long time and solidified in the perception of the US-American civilization. It took several years before US-journalists lost their interest and looked out to terrify the population with other topics. Instead of reporting in a dedicated and critical manner about these incidents, journalists speculate and try to force an opinion. Still, nowadays, sharks are seen as a major threat. Although we know the urban legend, that coconuts are more dangerous than sharks.

I hope, that the US-media doesn’t try the same with the Dominican Republic, what they before succeeded with bees, sharks and other topics. Bees and sharks can nothing do than continuing living their feral lives. Dominicans can’t. They are dependent on tourism as one of their major GDP sources.

Heavy losses for the Dominican economy due to US-cancellations

The following statistics made by CREES are from 2015, I couldn’t find a more recent comparison. Although these statistics aren’t up to date, they show significant data about the dependency of tourism for the Dominican Republic. We can be of course sure, that these figures raised until 2018.

Dominican Republic counts 6,118.0 million USD income thanks to tourism
This statistic shows the total Income of tourism in Latin America
Dominican Republic has $581.10 income per capita thanks to tourism
This statistic shows the tourism income per capita in Latin America.

Both income per capita and the total amount shows the dependence of tourism for the economy of the Dominican Republic. Tourism itself exceeds 20% of the country’s GDP. Approximately 12% of the whole Dominican GDP is coming from US-American tourists.

That means (in 2017) US$7,177.5 million!!

The United States are the masters of marketing, the media circus, and mass manipulation. These three ‘Magic M’s’ are responsible for a jab into the Dominican economy. I’m curious about the final statistics for 2019 and which impact it all had on the economy.

From all the tourism in the geographic region, the Dominican Republic accounts for 20% of all tourism in the Caribbean. In 2018, the tourism statistics noticed a new all-time record:

The Dominican Republic announced a 6.2 percent increase in 2018 for overall tourism to the country, welcoming a total of 6.5 million tourists. This growth exceeds the world average growth of 6 percent and solidifies the Dominican Republic as the top destination in the Caribbean, representing 20 percent of all travel to the area in 2018.

Source: Global News Wire

Followed by these good statistics from 2018, the first two months in 2019 looked appealing as well:

In the first two months of 2019, Dominican Republic welcomed 604,977 tourists, an increase of 8 percent compared to this time last year. In that timeframe, 65 percent of those tourist arrivals came from North America, specifically the United States which continues to be a key market for the Dominican Republic.

Source: Global News Wire

But then, the slump started to affect the statistics due to the US-American casualties. With only having data from the first six months of the year, it is too early to inference whether or not 2019 is going to be an overall bad year for the Dominican Republic. According to ForwardKeys, a good reliable source for references to tourism trends, the cancellations from US-citizens exceeded 70% in June compared to the same months in 2018:

Source: ForwardKeys

Even more distinct and obvious are the statistics of the cancellation without comparing them to the prior year. Taking a look at the cancellations since April 2019 shows the real impact and power of the US-American media hysteria:

Source: ForwardKeys

Not only mass media has worsened the situation with the cancellations to the Dominican Republic. Now, air carriers like Delta Airlines aggravate this situation and hysteria and inspire US-citizens to cancel their trips to the Dominican Republic for free.

Fortunately, the new reservations seem to come back to a ‘normal level’ and raised by 2.8% of the two previous, difficult months.

Can other Caribbean countries produce the same tourism quality like the Dominican Republic?

What we learned earlier from CNN was that Americans are far more likely to be killed in the US than in the Dominican Republic. Consequently, US-American citizens still want to spend their vacations in a country with sunshine, palms, rhythmic music, and fruity cocktails. Hence the people shift to other Caribbean destinations which might provide comparable holidays:

Source: ForwardKeys

One remaining question is if these destinations can fulfill the customers’ expectations regarding quality and excellence experiences. Due to statistics, the Dominican Republic offers the highest quality for travelers in the Caribbean. As a result of eight sub-rankings (culture, entertainment, sightseeing, sports and adventure, culinary, lodging, safety and connectivity), the Dominican Republic ranks number one here. 21 out of 25 of the region’s highest-rated hotels are in the Dominican Republic.

Source: Caribbean&Co
Source: Caribbean&Co.

Although it might seem, that the safety level is low according to these statistics from Caribbean&Co., the Dominican Republic is perceived much safer by its foreign visitors than its adjacent competitive tourism destinations:

heat map of crime in the Caribbean
This heat map shows the crime index of the Caribbean in 2017. Source: numbeo.com
According to the Caribbean Crime Index from 2017, the Dominican Republic was the safest country in the Caribbean
The Dominican Republic has the lowest crime index and the highest safety index of the Caribbean

But…What if I get killed in the Dominican Republic?!

Another statistic shows the Top 25 countries by Americans killed per capita. These statistics exclude any country that received fewer than 100,000 American visitors between 2009 and 2016.

Source: data.world

The chance to get killed for a US-American is highest in Pakistan. But where is the Dominican Republic?

Other Latin American countries (e.g. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, etc.) and such from the Caribbean (e.g. Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada, Barbados) could be seen here as direct competitors for a tourism destination. Even they are likely to represent a higher danger for US-American citizens. The Dominican Republic doesn’t come off badly in this ranking, particularly if you consider the mass of people who are traveling to that country.

Is the Dominican Republic still safe to visit?

Soooo, what did you learn from this article? You learned about the coherence amongst killer bees, killer sharks and killer Dominicans thanks to the US-American media hysteria. You learned about the importance of tourism for the Caribbean island. And you learned that the Dominican Republic produces the highest tourism quality in the geographic region.

Is the Dominican Republic still safe to visit? The best answer should be: That depends on your own perspective and what you do during your vacations. It’s safer for US-American tourists to visit Mexico than the Dominican Republic, but more unsafe than visiting France. Does this help? Of course not. But it replaces ‘panic thinking’ with ‘rational thinking if you consider soberly the statistics and keep emotions far away from decision making.

A beach is a beach. No matter if it’s in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Brazil, Dubai, Thailand or Australia. And people die everywhere in the world during their vacations, regardless of their nationality. Not only US-Americans.

You can still visit the Dominican Republic and have a good time, fun and what is most important: a safe feeling. Even if you are a US-American. But please don’t binge-drink at an All-Inclusive resort all day in the sun at 100°F if you suffer from heart failure and are currently on meds. I don’t want to see yourself included either into these or in Jamaican, Cuban or Barbados statistics. Have a long, successful and healthy life!

 

 

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