What you need to know about canceling/re-booking trips to the Dominican Republic

Following the deaths of several U.S. tourists in the Dominican Republic, many travelers who have already booked trips there are questioning whether it is a safe destination.

On Friday, the Dominican Republic's minister of tourism gave an emphatic "yes" to that question, saying the number of tourist deaths is down compared to prior years.

Still, 7 On Your Side has been getting flooded with questions on how to get a refund or re-book a trip. So Nina Pineda got some tips from the travel experts.

It was supposed to be a sweet 16 celebration, with 10 friends and their 10 moms all heading to Punta Cana next week.

"We were starting to get really nervous," mom Dawn Wittkamp said. "Finally, a week ago, we said we can't go and enjoy ourselves."

Dawn and her daughter Sammie watched the headlines about recent tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, and she says their group made the decision to cancel.

The travel insurance plan most purchased included a "cancel for any reason" clause, which entitled them to recoup 50 percent of the trip cost. American Airlines also offered the group a big break, waiving its customary $200 change fee.

"It's not the policy, it's not in stone," said Josette Carrizzo, owner of Trips Away Travel. "It's case by case, depending on who you get. But I would say that most of the carriers are waiving the change fee and allowing you to keep the credit."

Carrizzo's travel agents are busy re-booking clients and fighting for credit extensions for those cancelling their Dominican Republic trips.

"I think the best advice that I would give is to first of all, start with your carrier and contact the hotel or the way that you booked the hotel," Carrizzo said. "If you went through an operator or travel agent, you've got to contact them. They will do their best. All of us in this industry are trying very, very hard to assist these people. And it's difficult because most of the hotels, it's a big loss for them as well."

And some travel experts are questioning the cause for alarm.

"There is no emergency or travel ban," said Pauline Frommer, Editorial Director of Frommer's Guidebooks. "You have eight deaths out of 6. 5 million tourists. That's not an emergency."

We caught up with Frommer at her WABC radio show. The travel guide author sent her own teenage daughter to the Dominican Republic this week for a medical program.

"The numbers show she's as safe there as she is in New York," Frommer said.
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