Topline: The tenth American tourist has died in the Dominican Republic in the past year, with eight of those deaths occurring since April, deepening a mystery about what’s really going on, as Dominican officials continue to insist the island is safe.
Key background: Multiple autopsies from previous victims showed similarities in their causes of death, with the bodies exhibiting enlarged hearts, fluid in their lungs and internal bleeding. At least three of the victims reportedly had a drink from their hotel room minibars before being found dead, and two of the three were guests at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana. The New York Post reported last week that some Dominican hotel room minibars are equipped with liquor on tap, and that local authorities were investigating whether or not those minibar liquor taps were counterfeited or somehow contaminated.
Critical fact: The American Society for Travel Advisors reported 60% of its membership canceled Dominican Republic trips last week, while separate analysis of flight booking data showed a 45% increase in flight cancellations in the first half of June 2019 compared to the same two weeks in June 2018. For would-be travellers, the Dominican Republic is rated a two out of four by the U.S. State Department, which advised in an April 15 update: “Exercise increased caution due to crime. Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.” The State Department has provided public condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, but has declined to comment on any ongoing investigations. A Florida man who visited in May, only to fall suddenly and severely ill, says, “Don’t go. Just don’t go.”