In recent days I received an email from a person in which he asked me several questions, among them were the questions, ¿are there still tourists dying in the Dominican Republic? ¿in which hotels did tourists die?
I immediately realized that this person still has the stigma of what happened in 2019 in the Dominican Republic.
2019 was a catastrophic year for the Dominican Republic’s reputation as a top Caribbean tourist destination. News of some dead tourists in the Dominican Republic went viral, speculations of tourist poisoning, as well as many others arose.
After some cases of tourist deaths came to light, the Dominican Republic’s own authorities asked the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for help to conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths of tourists in the Dominican Republic.
The FBI of the United States conducted toxicology tests on some of the deceased tourists in the Dominican Republic, stating that the reason for death was due to natural causes and no evidence of poisoning, a result in agreement with the local authorities of the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is visited by more than 6 million people every year, more than two million Americans visited the country in 2018 and six died, according to data from The New York Times.
As a percentage, the six American tourists who died represent 0.0003% of the two million who visited the country, which is obviously a tiny figure.
I understand that it is very unkind to analyze people as simple numbers or statistics, but in order to make an objective analysis, it is necessary.
So, if the deaths of the tourists were natural causes and everything was confirmed by the authorities of both the United States and the Dominican Republic, why was so much media coverage given to this news?
I think I can answer that…
Why was tourism in the Dominican Republic given so much bad publicity?
The fact that 0.0003 percent of tourist deaths in a given time does not justify giving so much bad publicity to a country whose primary economic activity is tourism.
I am a digital publisher and also Dominican, but leaving aside the emotionality of nationality, I think I understand why the Dominican Republic was for a while in the “eye of the storm” of bad news.
To understand this whole media problem, it is necessary to have a notion of how the media works, the news represents an audience, the news that attracts the most audience are those that generate terror and panic.
An audience represents money for the media, the more audience, the more money (big money, don’t underestimate the amount of money generated by digital media with a large audience).
It’s not that I criticize this business model of making money with an audience, in fact, I do the same with this website and others, with the difference that I don’t create tabloid news, nor do I have “a money symbol drawn in my eyes”.
It’s just a system, like a machine, the media doesn’t care about the families in the Dominican Republic that live from tourism, many media doesn’t care about the truth (not all are the same), they just want to “ride the wave” and make some money.
The way to find the most relevant topics to generate a large audience is obviously through google, and for this, there is a tool called google trends.
This tool shows you which topics are trending, in 2019 the Dominican Republic was trending worldwide, which is reflected in google trends.
The media threw gasoline on a spark to the maximum, they took advantage of that moment and squeezed every drop of interest, some even went to the limit of manipulating the information with scary headlines (it is normal to make headlines that are very eye-catching to attract people).
And of course, there is never a shortage of clever people who will try to take advantage of the moment to make money in some way or another as well.
About Poisoned Alcohol in the Dominican Republic
Lately, there have been some isolated cases of adulterated alcohol in the Dominican Republic, in fact, I wrote a whole article about it, Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol In The Dominican Republic? (Solved and Explained)
But this has been an underworld problem in some cities in the country, far away from the all-inclusive resorts and renowned hotels.
In my profession, I have worked closely with some resorts in the Punta Cana area of the Dominican Republic, in the area of design for the foodservice industry.
I know very well the strict quality standards of these hotels, in fact, some of the design work done here is sent to the United States and thoroughly reviewed.
The procedures and care that the hotels in the Punta Cana area have in everything related to the kitchen are incredibly professional, at least that is my experience working closely.
It is very ignorant to think that a hotel that has invested millions of dollars to operate is going to use adulterated alcohol (practically poison) to save pennies.
Is the Dominican Republic much more dangerous than the United States?
According to the 2021 World Peace Index, the Dominican Republic is ranked 82nd and the United States 122nd in the ranking of the most peaceful countries.
In 2018/2019, the Dominican Republic was ranked 84th, while the United States was ranked 128th.
The Global Peace Index (GPI) is a report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) that measures the relative peace standing of nations and regions.
In relation to other countries, according to the web portal insightcrime.org, the Dominican Republic has one of the lowest homicide rates in Latin America in 2020, only 9 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
The homicide rate in the United States is very low, at 8.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, about the same as in the Dominican Republic.
(Please, don’t take it personally, it is only statistical data, not a value judgment).