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Haiti & Dominican Republic Tourism - Ethics After the Earthquake

How will you travel now?

Sure, you love the Caribbean with its turquoise blue waters, sugared beaches and umbrella-dressed drinks. But has the tragedy in Haiti on January 12, 2010 scarred the fantasy?

More than 4 million people visited the Dominican Republic in 2008, accounting for billions of dollars in Traveling after a TragedyTraveling after a Tragedyrevenue. It's the top travel destination for Canadians with more than 500, 000 snowbirds heading there each year.

Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic is less than 250 miles from the devastated city of Port-au-Prince (the epi-center of the quake). Would you cancel an upcoming trip there because of the disaster? Why?

Before last week's quake, Haiti was working hard to get itself on the tourism map.

Royal Caribbean is currently Haiti's biggest foreign investor with a more than $50 million dollar resort on Labadee and Choice Hotels recently announced it would open two hotels in Jacmel in southern Haiti. Last year, President Clinton joined the United Nations to help promote tourism to the country. There were also plans to build a new airport in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city.

Prior to the quake, the US government officially warned Americans to exercise "high degree of caution" when visiting because of the crime. But travel companies were making their way there, surveying the landscape and finding incredible beauty.

"The visitors who are willing to go and see what's really happening on the ground in Haiti... have been surprised by what they find," said Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet. Unfortunately the glistening white beaches and lush jungles are equally balanced by the high crime rate against tourists.

But tourism after a tragedy makes us uncomfortable. Sipping margaritas on a beach only a few hundreds of miles from the destruction is uncomfortable - but is it any more comfortable on a different island? Or do we just think it is?

If you have a trip booked to the Dominican or Haiti or your cruise ship makes a stop there, don't cancel it. These places need your tourism dollars more now than they ever have.

You may not feel like partying on the beach, butOur tourist dollars CAN help!Our tourist dollars CAN help! contributing to the local economy may be the single most important we can help restore normalcy after a tragedy.

Responsible travel involves using our resources to make a positive difference. When the world stops reading the news reports and another story replaces the tragedy in Haiti, tourists can -and should - still be there.

Our tourism dollars have the power to restore dignity to people struggling to find meaningful work. Tourists create sustainable, local jobs.

How will you spend your tourism dollars this year?

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I really love the beaches in the Dominican Republic and the food, even at the most innocuous looking shack, is unbelievably good!

The Dominican Republic is one of my favourite travel destinations on earth. Especially Punta Cana. It is just awesome!

Thanks for the thoughtful questions! I don't think the answers are easy though - and they'll likely change as the weeks pass. I do think that going for those trips are sooooo important though - the survivors still need our tourism dollars. I agree, it may be a different vacation, but think of what you can learn from the people who still need to make a living - who may have amazing stories to share. Visit your official government website for travel advisories to ensure your safety. Julia

i am scheduled to go on feb 20th to punta cana bavaro beach but like you said how can i go party it up when 200 thousand people have lost their lives and families are torn apart. is there a concern of disease or contamination? should i be going to the doctor to get shots before i go? should i go at all? of course i want to go and it is a valid point about the tourism dollars helping the economy but should i be worried about any of this or should i just go on like nothing happened

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