At the beginning of June, news stories began to break about U.S. tourists to the Dominican Republic dying in hotels under mysterious circumstances. By June 12, the FBI was investigating, and stories about visitor deaths were frontpage news. Unfortunately, reports showing that U.S. deaths in the Dominican Republic were lower than many other Caribbean destinations and in line with annual norms were buried and easy to miss in the media frenzy.
For Hosts Global, a consortium of DMCs, the news coverage presented a challenge: The invitation-only seventh annual Hosts Global Forum was booked into the Paradisus Palma Real Golf and Spa Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The event, from June 27 to 30, hosted more than 200 clients and hospitality professionals from more than 60 different regions who had all booked long before the media storm.
Marty MacKay, DMCP, president of Hosts Global, explained how the organization reacted before and during the conference.
“We changed a lot!” says MacKay. “Once the sensationalism started, we had a lot of long conversations with the local hotels, the tourism board, and our DMCs and members down there to understand what was really going on. I sit on the board of Association Destination Management Executives and we run some emergency preparedness certificate programs and I reached out to some of the security firms we work with to get their input as well.”
Hosts Global took the following steps to reassure guests coming to the conference.