Flight cancellations to and from the Dominican Republic are soaring, according to travel analytics firm ForwardKeys. New bookings to the island are off sharply since the beginning of June.
Between June 1 and June 19, cancellations increased 51% compared to the same period a year ago. The pace of cancellations has picked up even more than that in recent days with cancellations more than double year ago levels on June 18 and 19.
New bookings for July and August to the Dominican Republic from the United States have fallen by 74.3% compared to the same period in 2018. Bookings were up 2.8% in April and May, before the news coverage of the deaths began.
David Tarsh, a spokeperson for ForwardKeys, said the decline is similar to what happens sometimes after violence strikes a country. “You can get a long continued problem or things can recover quite quickly, depending on whether people see the threat as being contained or ongoing. The problem you have here is the uncertainty, because the deaths are a mystery.”
Bookings to rival tourism destinations have jumped, Tarsh noted. June bookings for summer flights are up 45% to the Bahamas, up 31% to Aruba and up 26% to Jamaica.
At least some of the deaths are believed to have been from natural causes, and so far a connection between the deaths has not been established.
The loss of tourism is a huge problem for the Dominican economy. Tarsh said 17% of the nation’s gross domestic product is tied to tourism.
Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garciacalls on Friday called the spate of deaths “exaggerated.”
“It’s not true that there has been an avalanche of American tourists dying in our country, and it’s not true that we have mysterious deaths,” he said. He denied Americans are canceling their vacations to the Dominican Republic.
— CNN’s Doug Criss and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report