SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The picturesque sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic have become the backdrop to a rash of American tourists' deaths at luxury all-inclusive hotels.
Nine Americans this year have died in various Caribbean nation hotels in strangely similar circumstances – including a couple who died together in their hotel room. Neither the Dominican Ministry of Public Health nor the Tourism Ministry has publicly shared the final autopsy reports, showing the reasons why men and women succumbed.
The weird cases – along with the latest shot of ex-MLB star David Ortiz – have sparked a wave of speculation and questions from the victims' families in the United States and have caused many to question whether the island is safe for visitors.
Government records show that the Dominican Republic welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors from all over the world in 201
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An expert in Dominican tourism told Fox News Wednesday that the country should expect a temporary decline in visitors – especially from the US – this summer, which is one of the high seasons of travel.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
"I think the (down) curve started in June and will continue in July before we begin to recover in August and September," he said.
However, he warned whether the Dominican authorities do not determine the cause of death for the victims, and soon it could potentially be as detrimental to the island's tourism industry as the disappearance of American teenager Natalie Holloway for May 2005 for Aruba.
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] Continuous news coverage in US media and requested a boycott of travel to the little Dutch controlled Caribbean island. While the island's tourism has recovered more than a decade later, it saw almost a double-digit loss in US visits during the twelve months following Holloway's disappearance.
The handling of the case by Aruban officials – or assault some critics have described it in the months and years after – is thought to be one of the reasons why American travelers decided to go on the trip to the island.
The tourism expert said he feared that something similar could happen in the Dominican Republic if local officials do not publicly speak out on the falls and offer concrete details about the death.
"It would be really bad if we ended up with a 10 or 15 percent reduction (in tourism)," he said, adding that not only the hotels would be affected, but other companies and communities benefiting from them. "There are thousands and thousands of dollars that come directly or indirectly into these communities from the tourism industry.
He added:" A 10 percent drop in tourism is a 10 percent revenue rate for these communities. "
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The Dominican government, like the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, has in recent weeks stressed that the cases are isolated incidents and that the tourist destination is safe for travelers.
Gustavo Montalvo, the minister of the Dominican presidency, has repeated the claim and says that no city on the island appeared in a recently reported report on the 50 most violent world of it Inter-American Development Bank.
"In that list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world there is no one from the Dominican Republic," he said during an event Wednesday hosting the American Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic. "In fact, we are very far from some similar figure. "
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Public Health the isterias are expected to release more information later this week, sources of Fox News said.