NEW YORK — On Thursday, the Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier García held a briefing to discuss the ministry’s commitment to tourist safety.
“Dominican Republic is a country that tries to safeguard the lives of tourists,” said García.
The briefing followed at least 10 U.S. tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic since March.
After some of the deaths led to questions about hotel room minibars, the Hard Rock Casino took the precaution of removing liquor dispensers from guest rooms there as well as at its Mexican properties.
In August, a resort temporarily closed after thousands of visitors canceled following a woman’s report she had been beaten at the property.
In the wake of the reported deaths, the country began elevating safety regulations and enforcing food and drink inspections.
“We want to continue to increase security for tourists in the Dominican Republic,” García said at the briefing. “We have to take care of them.”
García said the government will establish a National Committee of Tourism Security to develop strategies to detect and prevent threats.
He also discussed other measures the country has been taking to protect visitors to the Caribbean vacation destination, including:
In 2018, security programs resulted in a 27% drop in the number of crimes reported by foreign tourists, García said.
He said at that time the confirmed deaths are not out of the ordinary and that the number was lower than in some previous years.
Flight bookings from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic appeared to start rebounding in July.
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The U.S. State Department currently rates the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti, as a level 2 (“exercise increased caution”) out of 4 on its Travel Advisory alert system. Visitors to countries rated as 1 should “exercise normal precautions” while Americans are urged not to travel to countries rated as 4.
The Dominican Republic has held a 2 rating since the Travel Advisory system went into effect in 2018.
Robin Stein Bernstein, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, explained what a 2 rating means: “You don’t want to go out at 2 a.m. by yourself and walk on the beach and expect nothing to happen to you.”
Other countries that have received level 2 ratings include Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
Bernstein told USA TODAY a few steps that tourists can take while traveling, especially to a country rated 2 or above:
“If you go to a municipal area, sometimes there are bad people that prey on tourists,” said Bernstein. “They’re looking for people as they would in any other major tourist destination.”
The best thing to do, she said, is to use common sense