After A Year Of Bad Press, The Dominican Republic Launches Campaign To Bring Tourists Back
After a year of the negative press focused on the suspicious American deaths that occurred in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, the country is launching an integrated marketing campaign aimed to rebuild tourists’ trust in the country. The Dominican Republic had confirmed that the autopsies and toxicology reports were “consistent with natural causes.” The FBI opened its own investigation into the deaths because of the number of American deaths and concluded that they were “consistent with the findings of local authorities,” according to a statement from the Office of Consular Affairs of the State Department, reported by The Hill. Many suspected methanol poisoning from alcohol in the minibar, but the FBI ruled it out and found the American deaths were from natural causes.
Now, the country is seeking to reclaim its reputation, and it’s looking at Canada.
Canada is the Dominican Republic’s second most important international market after the United States.
Cosette Garcia, director of the Dominican Republic’s Tourist Office in Montreal, Canada, told Travel Pulse that Canada’s importance to the Dominican Republic is because it’s a “tour operator” market. “That is to say that almost 100 percent of Canadians who go to the Dominican Republic are tourists,” Garcia says. “For us, this market is therefore of paramount importance.” Basically, the Dominicans that have moved to the United States will continue to return to the island to visit family. Those Dominican-American’s are also far less likely to stay at expensive resorts and spend as much money. It’s a family trip, not a Caribbean vacation like it would be for Canadians.
The country’s Ministry of Tourism office will be promoting its clear ocean waters and luxurious resorts on all platforms.
The office has arranged for Canada’s top travel news outlets to travel to Punta Cana, in the hopes that it will revitalize tourism from Canadians this winter. Compared to last year, the country lost 100,000 visitors between January and September of this year. Sensational media reports discredited the Dominican Republic’s investigations into the deaths, fanned by confused and grieving family members calling for the media to investigate. One couple was found dead in their hotel room, and both were determined to have died of respiratory failure. Another grieving family member called on Senator Menendez (NJ) to demand justice for his brother, Joseph E. Allen III. All the while, Dominicans were taking to social media to make sure people stopped trying to cancel the Dominican Republic.
“These are unfortunately sad events, but these are things that happen in every normal tourist destination that receives more than seven million tourists each year,” Garcia told the outlet. “It’s normal to have natural death statistics.”
Officials maintained that the Dominican Republic was “no less safe than it was before,” according to a CNN report.
“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia responded. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.” The tourism office is now promoting videos of “real tourists” who are talking about how great their vacation to the island has been.
Even though the FBI has corroborated the Dominican Republic’s credibility, the public still needs some winning over.
The public wants to hear about the minibars, and the country is hoping to quell some irrational fears. “The FBI has debunked all of the false rumors put out by the mainstream media and I’m thankful to be here with companies combatting the issues hurting this destination,” tweeted journalist Paul Smith of Travel Smiths. Mainstream media created a tourism crisis for the country, and now, the Dominican Republic is marketing both toward tourists and mainstream media alike with a new campaign.
Now, the Dominican Republic is launching its own hashtag campaign: #TheRealDR.
It’s tough because, no matter what Dominican Republic officials said, the families of the deceased didn’t trust it, and that was communicated to the rest of the world. Critics are already using the hashtag to tweet, “#TheRealDR So you’ll see the REAL Dominican Republic by staying at an all-inclusive resort where the staff hates you so much they put poison in the booze and murder you. Great ad, DR.”
“This campaign offers a level of transparency and authenticity like nothing we have ever done before,” Magaly Toribio, the Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, told Dominican Today. “We are looking forward to sharing the beauty and culture of our country through the words and first-person experiences of our tourists.”