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Sadly, eleven American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic during the past year (as of the date of this article). The latest tragedy occurred June 17, 2019, when a New York business owner, 56, died after becoming critically ill at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo.
Prior to the above, on June 10, 2019 at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana, a 53-year-old Staten Island, New York, woman lost her life in Punta Cana according to CNN. Details of her death are sketchy. It seems the hotel where she was staying first reported that she had become ill and was taken to a hospital. They later changed their story, though, to say that the woman died of a heart attack in her hotel room, citing a forensic report as confirmation. However, CNN stated that it has not been able to independently corroborate the contents of that report.
Following the woman’s death, Excellence Resorts, the owner of the hotel where the woman was staying, issued a statement saying that they were deeply saddened by the recent deaths that have occurred in the Dominican Republic. They went on to say that the safety of travelers was of paramount importance and that they had always taken appropriate measures to insure the safety of their guests. They also reported that the resort is fully cooperating with U.S. and local authorities and extended their condolences to all parties who might have suffered as a result of the recent incidents.
Official Dominican Republic Response
Dominican Republic officials are calling the deaths isolated incidents and are trying to assure the public that the Dominican Republic is a safe place to visit. According to a tourism spokesperson, the Dominican Republic has been visited by more than 30 million tourists in the past five years, and this is the first time that such an alarming situation has been reported by international media.
A spokesman for the nation’s Ministry of Public Health told Fox News that nine Americans who have died on the Caribbean island in the past year died of natural causes, according to their preliminary and final autopsy reports, and dismissed media coverage calling the deaths mysterious. They are still awaiting autopsy reports on the latest two deaths.
The Dominican Republic is one of the top vacation spots in the world with more than six million tourists visiting it each year. Americans make up more than a third of that number. An official government video refers to the Dominican Republic as the Caribbean’s largest and fastest growing tourism destination. The country is known for beautiful mountains and beaches, great food and hardworking people.
Other American Deaths in the Dominican Republic
Although the death of eleven Americans over the past year is certainly a startling statistic, it pales in comparison to the 128 Americans that have died in the Dominican Republic since 2012. However, the U.S. Department of State, which is responsible for those statistics, has not yet issued a travel warning. Furthermore, they have not conceded that the deaths were connected. Here are some of the other American deaths that have been reported in the Dominican Republic:
a. Maryland Couple
In May of 2019, a Maryland couple was found dead only a few days after checking into their hotel room. According to reports, the couple had internal bleeding and fluid in their lungs. After taking a drink from a minibar, the wife suddenly became ill, collapsed and died. A preliminary autopsy showed that she suffered from a heart attack, respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.
b. Barbara Corcoran’s Brother
Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank fame, reported that her brother died in a Dominican Republic hotel room in late April, apparently of natural causes. He had been a guest at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. That is the same hotel where another American died last July one day after returning from a snorkeling expedition. The cause of death was determined to be a heart attack along with pulmonary edema.
Benefits of Travel Insurance
The recent deaths in the Dominican Republic highlight the need for travel insurance, and the industry is seeing a large increase in search queries related to the Dominican Republic this year. TravelInsurance.com is seeing policies with Dominican Republic as the primary destination up close to 50% over the same period last year. In June alone, policies sold with Dominican Republic as primary destination are up over 75% over the average for the prior three months.
While travel insurance does cover trip cancellation and interruption for a wide range of covered reasons, from unexpected illness to hurricanes, it will not provide trip cancellation protection for travelers having second thoughts about their Dominican Republic trips due to the fear of the recent deaths and illnesses.
Comprehensive coverage, however, does provide a variety of benefits that includes emergency medical coverage, 24/7 emergency assistance and emergency medical evacuation. In addition to medical benefits, comprehensive coverage also covers trip interruption, trip cancellation and baggage protection.
Some policies include a “cancel for any reason” provision. This is a time sensitive benefit that allows a policy holder to receive up to 75 percent of non-refundable costs on a trip that is cancelled for any reason. This allows a traveler who suddenly becomes concerned about safety issues to cancel or postpone their trip without impunity.
For safety, travelers should educate themselves on what to expect, make their plans known and be vigilant in their travels. They may also want to look into the benefits of travel insurance.