Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia spoke about the destination’s tourist safety measures, which had first been announced in July, during a media briefing in New York, while also continuing to offer criticism of widespread media coverage of tourist deaths that have taken place in the country over the past year.
“It’s true that people passed away, but a lot of deaths that didn’t happen at hotels or to tourists were introduced [by the media as being tourism-related],” Garcia said, claiming two examples of Americans who had passed away in the country and who then were erroneously reported as being tourists. “This has forced us to develop a repositioning campaign. We’ve had a process where we’ve answered every question that the press requires, but the damage is done.”
Garcia said that, in order to deepen the investigation into some of the deaths, the Dominican Republic government performed toxicology tests, finding that the deaths had occurred due to natural causes in each case. The government also asked the FBI to conduct its own, independent toxicology tests; those tests are still underway, with the results to be shared at the FBI’s discretion.
Garcia also shared information on the destination’s tourist safety measures. The country has been implementing a 911 system over the past five years; reinforced mandates require that emergency information and the availability of 911 is clearly posted in every guestroom. The 911 system is tied into more than 3,000 public security centers, which are monitored 24/7 by 911 operators. The National Police and CESTUR have also been expanded to include 4,000 additional agents.
The Department of Tourism Services and Companies is doubling its inspection capacity in the country’s tourist destinations, as well as working to scrutinize medical facilities and staff at Dominican Republic hotels.
To further improve inspections, the Ministry of Tourism has partnered with Quimocaribe S.A.A. and Ecolab to provide ServSafe training and certification to all inspectors. This certification is updated with the Food and Drug Administration food code, and it is accredited by the Conference on Food Protection of the American National Institute of Standards. The Punta Cana Medical Center has also become the first hospital in the country to receive international GOLD Accreditation by Qmentum International-Accreditation Canada.
The government is also establishing an emergency tourist center in Bávaro, staffed by a team of multi-lingual specialists who will serve as a direct liaison between tourists, their families and the necessary government entity.
Finally, Garcia reiterated that the Dominican Republic remains rated a Level 2 destination on the U.S. State Department’s four-level advisory scale, as it has been since the scale was introduced in 2018, and that the country shares this rating with popular European destinations such as France and Spain. “We’re proud to carry a level 2 assessment by the U.S. State Department, which is similar to these countries, which are so safe and have so much development,” he said.