The deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic has made headlines in recent weeks as family members question the circumstances surrounding the deaths. Those reports have some travelers wanting to cancel trips to the island.
Tiphanie De Vargas is one of those travelers. Initially, Tiphanie was excited about her upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic. Once she started hearing reports about U.S. tourists dying on the island nation, Tiphanie had a change of heart.
The Ministry of Tourism in the DR has denied the deaths of American tourists are mysterious. Minister Francisco Javier Garcia says the cause of each death is known. He also cited figures reported to the U.S. State Department which says deaths from unnatural causes such as homicides, suicides and accidents on the island have decreased in recent years. Those figures were also analyzed by NBC News. The FBI is currently conducting toxicology screenings of the recent deaths.
"I'm nervous to eat something, to drink something, and those aren't any kind of vacations," Tiphanie said about traveling to DR. "It was so much stress before leaving, imagine being there?"
She didn't feel comfortable traveling to the island, so contacted her travel agency RISA Travel and asked for a refund.
"When I spoke to my travel agent Tony, he said that it was totally fine that I was going to get my full refund and there was going to be no issues," Tiphanie recalled.
Her receipts show she made four payments totaling $2,498 for the trip she was going to take in August. The terms and conditions she agreed to state that if she cancelled with at least 61 days' notice, she would get all her money back minus her deposit. Tipahnie says her husband sent this cancellation notice June 10th.
"Which for my contract, I was 62 days before I left August 11th," Tiphanie said.
Shortly after, Risa Travel refunded her $1,249, which is half of what she paid minus the deposit. The company said its cancellation policy changed last year.
"I think that it's unfair and it's very unprofessional how they've handled this situation."
Tiphanie was so upset she contacted NBC 6 Responds.
Our team reached out to RISA Travel to ask about Tiphanie's case.
RISA Travel responded with the following statement:
"Back in October 2018, RISA Travel decided that for the 2019 summer operation to Punta Cana we would not use charter flights, but regular scheduled airlines. Consequently, RISA Travel updated its terms and conditions in October."
The company added that it notified the client of the updated terms on three occasions when she made the last three payments. RISA also advises its clients to buy travel insurance to protect money invested.
Unfortunately, Tiphanie didn't have travel insurance and lost over $1,000.
"It was very hard. I work Monday through Friday to be able to do these little trips and be able to do things like this and she basically took it without anything, without any feeling towards how hard I've worked," Tiphanie complained.
Several viewers also called NBC 6 Responds because they were cancelling flights with American Airlines and were wondering about their cancellation penalties. American Airlines said it currently doesn't have a formal policy regarding the Dominican Republic but will review each request on a case-by-case basis.