Flights to Dominican Republic down 74 percent following spate of mysterious deaths, study claims
Flight bookings to the Dominican Republic are reportedly down 74 percent through the upcoming popular vacation months of July and August, a new study claims. The alleged plummet comes amid reports of mysterious illnesses and multiple deaths of American tourists in the island nation this year.
Airline travel to the DR for the next two months has plunged by 74.3 percent year over year, the New York Post reports, citing a new report from ForwardKeys, which analyzes travel trends drawn from 17 million flight bookings daily.
According to the findings, cancellations spiked by a whopping 70 percent on June 10, the day Leyla Cox died suddenly at a luxury resort in Punta Cana.
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Commenting on the findings, ForwardKeys vice president Olivier Ponti offered his condolences to the families of American tourists who have died, CBS reports.
“My deepest sympathies go out to the families of the American tourists who have passed away. Their recent and tragic deaths appear to have had a dramatic impact on travel to the Dominican Republic,” Ponti said. “Our analysis of leisure travel shows a striking correlation.”
"It amounts to a dreadful image crisis for the Dominican Republic because the USA is the number one source market for tourism to the destination and its economy is highly dependent on foreign visitors,” he continued.
In 2018, the Dominican Republic welcomed over 6.5 million visitors from around the globe.
An expert on Dominican tourism told Fox News last week that the country should anticipate a temporary decline in visitors this summer, particularly from the US.
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The official spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
"I think the (downward) curve started in June and will continue in July before starting to recover again in August and September," the source said.
He warned, however, that if Dominican authorities do not determine the cause of death for the victims, and soon, it could potentially be just as damaging to the island's tourism industry, akin to the May 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalie Holloway in Aruba.
"If this is not figured out, it will be a catastrophe [for the country]," he claimed.
Meanwhile, flight bookings are reportedly up for other Caribbean islands – including Jamaica (26 percent,) the Bahamas (44.5 percent,) and Aruba (31.3 percent,) Fox Business reports.
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As for some of the major domestic carriers, Delta Air Lines is allowing passengers to rebook or cancel their Dominican Republic travel plans without incurring additional fees.
Other major airlines, including United and American, have confirmed to Fox News that the carriers are dealing with passengers on a “case by case” basis.
“With safety as our top priority, we continue to monitor the events in the Dominican Republic,” wrote United Airlines in a statement obtained by Fox News. “We have not issued a travel waiver at this time, but will work with customers on a case by case basis.”
Southwest’s standing policy, meanwhile, is that customers may cancel travel plans up to one hour before the scheduled flight for “full store credit,” travel advisory or not.
Fox News’ Lucia I. Suarez Sang and Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.