The Dominican Republic’s Comeback

If you were to ask me for a trip that is packed with big value, the Dominican Republic would be top of my list.  This destination offers a big bang for the buck. Epic suites, brand new resorts, world renowned hotel chains, massive beaches, and the list goes on and on. You can experience the luxury lifestyle without breaking the bank. This is largely why the island has seen a steadily increase in travelers and tourists each year. Known for its sandy beaches, clear blue ocean and the convenient all-inclusive hotel option, it can be quite the vacationer’s paradise.  The safety of the Dominican Republic has come up quite a lot over the last year, and again, with the worldwide spread of Covid-19. Toward the end of last year, I was interviewed live on CBS world news and numerous other press outlets regarding safety in the Dominican Republic and I’m happy to set the record straight and deliver some peace of mind once again!

More than 15 million tourists were welcomed to the Dominican Republic last year, and that number was climbing. It’s one of the most visited Caribbean islands and the growing majority returned home safely and with happy memories.  Unfortunately, late in 2019, we were reminded that this is not always the case, and then once again due to shut downs to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Like anywhere, natural disasters, crime and violence could be an issue even in the very magical spots we dream of. Don’t let this scare you because the odds of a traveler being involved in any type of violence or contradicting a disease are rare.

The claims of tainted alcohol was ruled out after a thorough FBI investigation, as were other forms of foul play. After speculations of tainted alcohol consumed the media news and caused enormous damage to the tourist industry, the Dominican Republic was finally turning the corner. Dominican Republic officials, along with the U.S. Ambassador, met in New York City to introduce new safety measures. These measures include reinforcing the availability to call 911 in every guest room, a new emergency tourist center in Punta Cana, where multi-lingual specialists can communicate with tourists and their families, an additional 4,000 agents were hired for both the tourist security agency and the national police, and 3,000 more public security cameras have been installed. The Ministry of Tourism also announced that it partnered with Ecolab, a United States-based water, hygiene and energy technology lab to provide training and certification to all Department of Tourism Services and Companies inspectors. It was a rough patch for the destination but travel was finally picking up.

That was short lived, when Covid-19 shut down the world including the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. Fast forward to now and the country is one of the best options for a vacation during these unprecedented times. Not only are flight schedules back (including non-stop flights!), hotels are reopening, borders are open and the best policies and procedures are in place to ensure a safe and fun vacation. The enticing part is travelers are not forced to take or present a negative Covid-19 test. At the moment this is the only island destination eliminating this part of the process! What is also really selling travelers is the FREE travel insurance plan provided for all tourist. Yes! Free!

All international tourists arriving on commercial flights and visiting a hotel will be granted a temporary, free travel insurance plan. This insurance plan provides coverage for emergencies in the event of an infection or exposure to COVID-19 while in-country. The coverage includes medical attention by specialists, medical transfers, transfer of a relative, penalty for airfare changes, lodging for prolonged stays and more. The Dominican Republic is coughing up the cash and picking up the tab so don’t worry about any hidden fees! One death, is one too many. When you compare the numbers of cases in Punta Cana compared to much of the rest of the country, the numbers stand out, with only 23 deaths of the 2,167 in the country. This is the lowest number of deaths seen in a popular tourist part of the country. The Dominican Republic has successfully reopened with some amazing procedures in place such as the free insurance coverage. The rest of the world can learn from their example. What more? Social distancing, face mask mandates and curfews are mandatory for locals. Any hotels I recommend to my clients have elevated their standards of quality and cleanliness, backed by third-party certifications while following guidance from World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), and local ministries of health. I am impressed with the countless ways hotels are going above and beyond. For instance, daily temperature checks for all employees before entering the resort grounds, hand sanitizing stations located throughout the properties, disinfecting of luggage upon arriving, staff requirement to wear PPE masks at all times, restaurant and bar capacities have been reduced, buffets will no longer offer self-service, increased frequency of deep-cleaning and disinfecting of all common areas and guest rooms (in addition to back of house areas) and so many more procedures that will really make you confident during you stay!

Making sure my clients are comfortable in their choice of hotel and destination is my top priority, like it is always.  It has been a rough year the tourism industry but maybe even more so for the Dominican Republic being the Country was hit back to back. All of the chaos has shed some light on another matter, not all travel agencies and online booking engines will have your back. Is it surprising? Not really, money is still money to some, bad news or no news.  I received countless calls and emails from travelers that were not given the support or the opportunity to move or change their plans to suit their needs best.  I have heard of websites and company’s going out of business and leaving travelers high and dry. I have heard of insane hold times, the lack of call-backs, thousands of dollars lost and no customer service. Ridiculous, outrageous even! My advice, be careful who you book with. While that popular website is enticing being it is a quick click away from a vacation, you’re just a number and not a personal concern for someone. Plus it has never been more important to support local. Also, consider your options for travel insurance, pack a mask and hand sanitizer, and keep updated on the latest information published by both local and international authorities.

On an exciting note, The Dominican Republic has seen some brand new hotel openings and several others in the works! The architecture, grounds, suites and facilities will not disappoint. And the price, unbeatable! From small families to honeymooners, groups and even destination weddings, everyone can enjoy a vacation to the island, in particular Punta Cana, with so much promise for a safe, enjoyable trip. The Dominican Republic is leading the way and beckons to jetsetters, especially the budget-minded kind needing a little r&r. After this year, I think we all fit that requirement!