Tourists ponder change in plans following American tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic
PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now joined the investigation into the mysterious deaths of several American tourists in the Dominican Republic.
So far, families of seven people who recently died at major resorts on the Caribbean island have come forward. Meanwhile, some Valley residents who had plans to vacation there, have cancelled their trips, but many others are still planning to go.
The Dominican Republic is a popular choice because it's the most affordable island, but the dream vacation is now looking more like a nightmare. Travel advisors are busy, keeping up with the latest news from the resorts and talking to clients who are re-thinking travel plans.
"I do have a group thats considering changing," said Dina Holland, advisor for the Arizona Travel Club. "They have a 50th birthday celebration in Punta Cana in December."
Holland just told a group of 24 women to hold off on making any changes, until officials in the Dominican Republic figure out what's been making tourists violently ill. One woman who was set to leave Wednesday decided not to take a chance. She had to forfeit at least $700 because she canceled her trip.
"She was due to leave on the red-eye tonight from Los Angeles and arrive at Punta Cana tomorrow, and she just didn't have that comfort level," said Holland.
However, the lure of turquoise waters and island paradise hasn't diminished, and many people are sticking with their plans.
"This group that's going tomorrow is going to be there for five nights," said Holland.
Holland has advised them to be extra careful, to walk in groups, and watch what's being poured into their drinks. Hotel liaisons are in constant contact with travel advisors and tour groups. With international attention on island, Holland said now is probably a safe time to go, since officials are being extremely careful about tourist safety.
"The resorts are going to heighten security, make every point, the alcohol in the rooms are checked, and maybe even replenished," said Holland. "What people have to remember is these are 3rd world countries. They dont have the same safety, food and water standards we do here in the U.S."
The mystery illnesses and deaths have not prompted the U.S. Department of State to increase travel advisory level for the Dominican Republic. Currently, it's at a Level 2, meaning tourists are being warned to use extra caution because of violent crime.