HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Raphanee Sterling and seven of her closest friends were planning to spend a long weekend in July at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
"We’ve been talking about it since last year, but we just booked in January," Sterling told FOX 26.
Since they booked, four Americans died mysteriously at resorts. Two weeks ago, they decided to cancel their trip to the Punta Cana when three tourists died within days of each other. Sterling also cites the attack on former MLB player David Ortiz as a reason that further solidified their decision not to go.
"At that point, we were like, we want to make sure that we make it home to our families," she added. "We don’t want to have to go out there and keep looking over our backs."
In past 12 months, six Americans have died at resorts on the island from similar causes. Two of them reportly stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the others at Bahia Principe resorts.
Also, dozens of Americans claim they have gotten sick while vacationing in the Dominican Republic and a Delware woman says she was brutally beaten by a resort employee.
"It’s scary and it’s not something that we’re willing to kind of risk our life on," Sterling stated.
The group booked their flight and hotel through the travel site BookIt.com
They decided they wanted to keep their travel dates but change their destination. But getting help from the site, Sterling says has been a nightmare.
"Every time we get to call them, it’s always a high call volume and we ended up getting disconnected," she added.
She says when they did get hold of someone, they kept being transferred.
Sterling wishes they would have paid the extra bucks for the travel insurance.
"I think that’s where we missed up so I would just advise people, when you look through these agencies just get the insurance," she sighed.
FOX 26 did reach out to BookIt.com. The Chief Operating Officer, Sue Meritt, said in a statement:
BookIt.com’s policy is to assist our guests to facilitate any and all changes they would like to make.
BookIt is actively assisting with rebooking trips for any guests who wish to change their plans At this time, however, none of the airlines are waiving change fees due to safety concerns in the Dominican Republic. Guests who cancel flights will be able to rebook, but the airline will charge them a change fee.
Therefore, we are happy to work with the guests to change to a different destination and use all funds paid to do so, less the change fees imposed by the airline.
Due to an influx of calls, our hold times have been longer than usual. We will be reaching out to these guests to assist them.
One of the women tells FOX 26 a representative from BookIt has reached out to her since FOX 26 contacted BookIt with their concerns.