Transportation officials have announced sweeping measures to bolster security across the Dominican Republic’s main airports over the busy winter travel season. The goal, officials say, is to deter criminals and prevent organized crime and drug traffickers from targeting commercial aviation to transport illegal goods. Passenger numbers and air traffic is soaring in the Dominican Republic, with December being one of the busiest months in the tropical country.
Officials have announced a new operation called Aeropuertos Seguros en la República Dominicana (Safe Airports In the Dominican Republic), which will see heightened security measures in several airports around the country. Most measures – which include deploying more police units – will take effect shortly before the Christmas holidays, but authorities are already implementing smaller improvements to safety.
Travelers headed to and departing from the country’s largest airports this December can expect to see increased police patrols and more sniffer dogs as authorities work to tackle organized crime. Punta Cana International Airport and Santo Domingo’s Las Américas International Airport are two of the country’s busiest and will be the focus of the enhanced safety measures.
Earlier this year, Punta Cana International Airport implemented new x-ray scanning technology to speed up security formalities whilst deterring drug traffickers. The airport also stepped up the use of sniffer dogs and other preventive measures, which have already proven to be highly effective. Law enforcement has made several high-profile drug arrests this year, including a Dominican couple that attempted to smuggle drugs to Belgium.
Altogether, officials are hopeful that the new measures will help stem organized crime and improve the country’s reputation, which has taken a hit as a result of an ongoing dispute with the U.S. over migration issues. The recently-announced security operation comes as the Dominican Republic enters its busiest time of the year for international travel, with December being very likely to see an all-time record for tourism arrivals.
Whilst the tropical island remains a safe destination – the Dominican Republic is currently under a Level 2 travel advisory as per the U.S. Department of State – authorities want to ensure smooth sailing over the winter travel period. Over a million travelers are expected to fly to the country in December, especially Christmas, promoting criminals to target wealthy foreigners. Increased air traffic also opens the doors to drug and human trafficking and a host of other security issues.
Several law enforcement agencies are expected to participate in the new security strategy, including the Ministry of Defense, as well as the National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) as well as the National Police. Meanwhile, the country’s specialized tourist police agency (Politur) will also look after tourists, preventing crimes such as pickpocketing and all sorts of scams.
The Dominican Republic is seeing its popularity skyrocket among North Americans, and Punta Cana was recently ranked the second most popular Caribbean destination for Americans according to TripAdvisor. In November, travel numbers to the country grew by a whopping 24% compared to 2019, highlighting the island’s resounding popularity.
The country’s government, led by President Luis Abinader, has successfully implemented measures to attract more visitors to the country by building more hotels and ensuring a low-tax policy. There have also been plenty of new investments in the country’s infrastructure, and a large-scale renovation of Punta Cana International Airport is currently in its final stages.
Most large U.S.-based airlines operate to and from the Dominican Republic, including JetBlue, which has operated in the country for several decades. With direct flights from many large U.S. hubs including New York, Miami, and Atlanta, traveling to the Dominican Republic is easier than ever before.
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