Tourism is big business in the Dominican Republic. About 2.7 million Americans visit the beautiful Caribbean destination annually, accounting for 47% of all tourists. But with seven alarming US tourist deaths there over the past few weeks and the recent shooting of sports celebrity David Ortiz at a local bar, tourists are fleeing the resorts there in large numbers. Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) arrivals statistics are not yet in for June, but Paola Rainieri, president of the Dominican National Association of Hotel & Tourism says she expects a drop in June arrivals as a result of the destination’s public relations crisis.
But while Jamaica is already the beneficiary of a marginal shift in business as a result of the fallout in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica’s deputy director of tourism for the Americas, Donnie Dawson is more concerned about the long term implications for Jamaica and the Caribbean region as a whole.
“The Dominican Republic is a very popular destination so we as Caribbean industry leaders are all concerned about what is happening there”, Dawson told Caribbean Times. “We felt the unfortunate events in Dom. Rep could create a backlash for the entire region and so we are supportive of our neighbor. We have seen some shift of business for us in the short term but nothing significant”, he added.
So far, there is no statistical evidence to support a backlash. With very few exceptions, including Haiti that ironically shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the posture for the Caribbean region is one of growth. Jamaica’s tourism is currently sitting pretty.
“Jamaica is enjoying the best air service in out history, and without air we cannot grow”, Dannie Dawson emphasized. “Additionally, our business development officers on the ground have done a fantastic job pounding the pavement every day to reinforce the Jamaica message. No other island in the Caribbean is as well positioned right now as Jamaica is in all our major markets”, he added.
In the meantime, resulting from the cancellations in the Dominican Republic, some Jamaican resorts are bursting at the seams with bookings.
“Over the past three weeks I’ve spoken with more than a dozen travel agents who were busy relocating rooms from the Dominican Republic to Jamaica with several others requesting group space for our Montego Bay and Runaway Bay resorts”, Everald Christie, East Coast regional sales manager for Decameron Resorts told Caribbean Times.
Francina Mason, marketing representative with Palladium Resorts for the northeastern United States painted a similar picture. “Our Jamaican property was doing well anyway, but with more business coming in from Punta Cana cancellations in the Dominican Republic, we are now very full, bursting at the seams”, she concurred.
“I hope the Dominican Republic and can quickly figure out what’s going on and fix it”, Dawson concluded.