With inflation hitting hard, many people are looking for ways to save on their next trip to the Dominican Republic. For some, that means skipping out on a pricey all-inclusive resort and opting for an online vacation rental on platforms such as Airbnb. However, authorities have raised alarms over the safety and reliability of so-called informal accommodation, and the topic is stirring up debate in the country.
Online rentals make up an increasing number of tourist accommodation supply in the Dominican Republic. Recent estimates put the number at up to 30% of all available rooms in the country, although no exact statistics exist. Traditional resorts offer a range of amenities, some optional, others legally-mandated, such as fire alarms, safety measures, and strict hygiene requirements.
On the other hand, online rentals don’t have to contend with such stringent restrictions, leading many to question the safety and reliability of those properties. In addition to physical security, experts say that online rentals pose a greater risk for scams. In many cases, tourists have paid for a property that doesn’t even exist, and getting your money back may take time. Moreover, fake ads and phishing messages lead many tourists to give up their credit card details to fraudsters.
With these risks in mind, the Dominican Tourism Real Estate Association is calling for the government to regulate informal vacation rentals. According to them, immediate changes are needed not only from a competitive viewpoint but also to ensure adequate health and safety precautions. Whereas hotels and resorts have around-the-clock video surveillance accessible to police, online rental homes lack this and other similar features. With high crime levels in parts of the country, many tourists feel safer in the safety of a well-guarded resort.
Health and sanitation are another big issue, as hotels are complete with regulations and parameters, which isn’t the case with informal rentals. Many have also brought up the fact that online vacation homes are highly regulated in other markets, including Miami or New York, and are calling for a similar approach in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican government is also working on the issue and has set up a special committee to address improvements in regulation. Seeking to follow in the footsteps of other countries, landlords putting up their property for rent in the Dominican Republic may soon have to pay a higher price not only in taxes but also to ensure the safety of their rental.
That’s not to say that all online vacation rentals are unsafe. Many leading platforms, including Airbnb, have issued tips for booking an apartment safely. Some of the top things to keep in mind include booking only through the official platform – avoiding third parties – and making sure the chosen property has good reviews. Moreover, if you want an additional layer of security, choose a property with a refund policy.
Despite the rapid increase in online rental properties, traditional resorts and hotels also perform well in the Caribbean island. Between the months of January and July, more than 18 new projects were either in construction or recently finished, adding some 8000 hotel rooms to the country’s inventory.
Mexican-based Original Group is among the latest hotel chain to launch new hotels in the Dominican Republic. The brand is opening two new all-inclusive resorts in Miches, 100 kilometers from Punta Cana International Airport. With 380 new rooms, Temptation Miches is inspired by colorful Caribbean nature, whereas Temptation Grand Miches will offer guests both traditional rooms in addition to bungalows. There are 14 room categories available all together, many of which have private pools and jacuzzis. The new properties are already nearing competition, with the grand opening scheduled for October 1.
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