The headlines about Americans dying under mysterious circumstances while on vacation in the Dominican Republic is prompting many cancellations of scheduled trips.
Tourism is down by more than 70% since the deaths became front page news.
Here’s what you need to know if you have reservations for an upcoming getaway to the DR, whether you’ve made arrangements yourself of through a travel agent.
According to a survey conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors, nearly 60% of travel agents have canceled trips to the DR for U.S. clients since mid-June, and some large public events are being cancelled, too.
Entertainer Rick Springfield has canceled an upcoming concert in Punta Cana out of heath concerns.
Airlines Waive Fees for Cancellations and Changes
Airlines are waiving fees for cancellations or route changes.
Delta is allowing travelers with tickets through mid-August to or from Punta Cana to change their flights without penalty. But there is some fine print:
You remain responsible for the difference between the original flight fee and booking to another date or destination, and rescheduled travel must be on or before Nov. 20. with travel starting no later than that date.
If you cancel entirely, you have the option of putting the value toward a new ticket, which would need to start within a year of the original date of the original ticket issue. Also, for cancellations, a change fee as well as the difference in fare would apply.
JetBlue is waiving fees for travelers to change or cancel flights. Those who cancel will not have to pay a cancellation fee and will get a credit for future trips.
American, United and Southwest told the Washington Post they are working with customers on a case-by-case basis, including issuing credit good for one year.
US Government Health Alerts
The US govnernment Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues traveler advisories for just about every country on the planet.
While the CDC is not reporting on the mysterious deaths of travelers in the DR, it is reporting incidences of rabies in in Punta Cana.
Hotel Cancellation Policies
Hotel cancellation policies vary widely. Depending how far in advance you cancel, it could cost your deposit, a fee equal to one night’s stay, the full amount, or nothing at all.
This is what Hard Rock Punta Cana has on its website about cancellations:
Depends on your cancellation policy described in your confirmation letter. If your reservation was refundable or nonrefundable.
It also depends on whether it is an international chain such as Hilton or Marriott, and whether you are a member of their customer loyalty program.
Simply, never leave home without travel insurance. Many tour operators require travel insurance, to protect them, and to protect you.
Depending on your policy, you can cancel a trip for any reason, including for personal safety fears.
Squaremouth, which compares travel insurance policies, reports a 24 percent increase in travelers insuring trips to the country since news of the deaths came out.
And 113 percent more travelers have bought upgrades that let them cancel a trip for any reason, spokeswoman Jenna Hummer told the Washington Post.
“Any reason” coverage allows you to get as much as 75 percent of their money back if you cancel, even without such typical refund triggers as a terrorist attack or mandatory evacuation for an impending volcano or other serious weather event.
Read my article on travel insurance basics here on ecoXplorer.
Travel & Leisure reports that while bookings for the Dominican Republic were stalling, bookings for other Caribbean islands increased. Bookings to Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Aruba are up 26.0 percent, 44.5 percent, and 31.3 percent respectively.
Discover Puerto Rico, the Island’s marketing organization, reports that tourism is the strongest it’s ever been, as the island rebounds from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The Island has received 1.67M visitors across the San Juan, Ponce, and Aguadilla airports in the first four months of 2019, the highest number of airport arrivals in the January-April timeframe in the Island’s history.
In addition to multiple flights, which means competitive air fares, Puerto Rico does not require a US Passport to visit.
One of my favorite spots in Puerto Rico is Bioluminsecent Bay, where you can glow like an angel while you snorkel with tiny algae that light up like fireflies, off Vieques.
It’s one of the few bioluminescent bays in the world, and an absolute “must do” for any ecoXplorer.
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