U.S. tourists are canceling their summer trips to Dominican beaches following reports that nine American visitors died in the Caribbean country over the last year.
Flights booked this month for travel to the Dominican Republic from the U.S. in July and August fell 59 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to ForwardKeys, a travel research company, which analyzes millions of flight bookings a day.
The company analyzed bookings made from June 1 to 17 and found cancellations jumped 45 percent. “The recent deaths of US tourists in the Dominican Republic appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the destination,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said Friday that the deaths were due to natural causes and that travel has not been impacted, according to CNN. “It’s not true that there has been an avalanche of American tourists dying in our country, and it’s not true that we have mysterious deaths,” CNN cited Garcia as telling reporters in Santo Domingo.
The country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is one of the Caribbean’s most visited destinations, drawing nearly 6.6 million tourists last year, according to central bank figures. Tourism accounts for about 17 percent of the $84 billion economy, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, an industry group.
Some of the deaths date back to last year but the issue gained attention recently when a Maryland couple was found dead in their hotel room May 30. The country of nearly 11 million had more bad news this month when retired Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz was injured when he was shot at a Santo Domingo bar.
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