CLEVELAND– The Dominican Republic has been one of the hottest destinations for American travelers for years, but the recent deaths of a number of tourists are raising questions about the safety of resorts in the island nation.
Retired Bedford police officer Thomas Curran and his wife were on vacation in Punta Cana in January when the 78-year-old fell ill after a meal and drinks at a resort. His condition quickly worsened over the next three days.
“They realized that he was unconscious and not breathing and aspirating on his vomit, so they transported him to the hospital and he later died,” said Kellie Brown, Curran’s daughter.
Brown said her family initially had no reason to be suspicious about the death of her father, but the revelation that a number of other Americans have died while vacationing at resorts has raised red flags in her mind.
“My father being a detective, I said, there’s some unanswered questions here, we need to figure out what is going on and if these are all related. And just what’s going in there and if it’s safe. The food, the liquor, is it safe, is it some place we should be going?’” she said.
A local travel agent said international media coverage of the situation in the Dominican Republic is prompting some travelers to change their minds about a trip to the island nation.
Cori Zupan of Valley Hill Travel said when compared to the 2.7 million Americans that visited the Dominican Republic last year, the percentage of people who have died is relatively small, but it is weighing heavily on the minds of consumers.
“I think people who would never give a thought, saying ‘Oh I’m going to go there, the price is good, I’m looking online, this is good, I’m going to book it.’ If they have a second thought, they don’t push that button to buy, they’ll pick a another destination,” Zupan said.
For those thinking about purchasing a travel package to Punta Cana or other resort areas, Zupan recommends paying for travel insurance, but there is a drawback.
“Travel insurance for ‘I’ve changed my mind’ tends to be very expensive,” she said. “You can do it but it’s not 100 percent refundable, it might be 80 percent refundable, but it’s something to consider.”