Why the Turkey earthquake shouldn’t stop you booking a holiday in a disaster zone
The crisis in Turkey reminds Justine Gosling of her trip to the Dominican Republic after the hurricane hit in 2022. Her message is that visiting countries affected by natural disasters – safely, of course – can help strengthen their economy.
Donate to the Disaster Emergency Committee appeal here to help the search for survivors and support those displaced by the earthquake.
As you’ll know, the Turkey earthquake has killed and injured tens of thousands in what has become one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory. But travellers may be surprised to hear that government advice isn’t to cancel your holiday: it’s just to avoid the immediate vicinity of the disaster. In fact, most flights are still running. Check yours to be safe, but the ports of Istanbul, Antalya, Dalaman and Bodrum are running as normal, unaffected by the Turkey earthquake.
Of course, the Turkey earthquake is entirely different from a hurricane. But there are similarities in that holidays to locations that have recently experienced a disaster shouldn’t be ruled out necessarily. It’s important to check government advice, with your holiday provider and hotel, to see if they are still welcoming guests, but often, holidaying in a disaster zone isn’t just fine, it is necessary for the recovery of an area hit by tragedy.
Touching down in the Dominican Republic after a hurricane
Just as I was starting to throw bikinis and sunscreen into a suitcase, disaster struck. Five days before I was due to step foot on the plane, hurricane Fiona hit the Dominican Republic with ferocious wind speeds of up to 185km/h. Heavy rains and strong winds resulted in landslides, flooding, damage to buildings, road blockages, power outages and interrupted telecommunications.
As I reflected on my trip, I simply couldn’t imagine that a destructive hurricane had torn through the country only days before my arrival
The region I was meant to be holidaying in was declared a disaster zone. Some will say it was risky to book a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season, when I went, but generally, during this period the weather is fantastic and holidays are cheaper. Resorts and beaches are quieter, making it a risk worth taking. Travelling outside of peak seasons is also beneficial to the countries visited, as it helps to sustain year-round employment for workers and avoid the dreaded effects of over tourism. The Caribbean is used to hurricanes, and recovers quickly, it has to, such is the importance of the tourism industry. In the Dominican Republic, pre-pandemic, income from tourism contributed 16 per cent to the economy annually, and 17 per cent of the workforce are employed in tourism.
These are some of the reasons why I booked my trip during hurricane season, and why, five days after the hurricane hit, I got on the plane. It wasn’t a reckless decision; I did my research. Before I left, I checked the UK government’s travel advisory website. It’s important to check this, as if you travel somewhere against the advice issued here, your insurance isn’t valid. Next, I checked that my flight was still operating.
Then, I checked the local tourism board’s website for information on the situation and emailed the hotel to enquire about the damage sustained, and the effects of the hurricane on the local population. I could accept that aspects about my trip may not be perfect as the country recovers, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable travelling if the local population did not have their basic needs met, or if my presence would be an additional burden to bear in a time of great need. I was reassured that services were running as normal, and that water and electricity supplies had already been re- stored to the area, and that no one was without shelter or food. Locals on the ground told me they supported my trip and were thankful for tourism still going on.
My full plane landed to sunny blue skies and 32 degree celsius heat. Punta Cana, in the easternmost region of the Dominican Republic, is one of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations, for good rea- son. The area is known for its turquoise waters and palm tree fringed beaches, whale spotting and fun vibes.
With 372 suites, all with balconies and jet bathtubs, TRS Turquesa Hotel is an adults only, all inclusive, 5* hotel situated in Playa Bávaro in the Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.
I had planned a fly-and-flop, but the highlight of my trip was a Catamaran day trip to the island of Saona within the Cotubanamá National Park. The island is a secluded Caribbean paradise, complete with coconuts falling from heavily burdened trees and giant starfish resting on the sea floor, easily seen through the transparent warm water. On the island, lunch was as if it had just been bought ashore, with a mouth watering BBQ buffet of salads and fried corn patties to accompany a whole lobster. Afterwards, I wandered at ease to walk off my lunch, and laid on a beach that may as well have had my name on it, it felt so private.
But I had come here to do even less than that, so lazing on a lounger, frozen margarita in hand, watching the palm tree leaves gently sway under the bluest of skies was what I most craved. And I made sure I did plenty of it. I did it whilst listening to the soothing repetitions of the waves, and there was no sign of the battering the beach took less than a week earlier.
In fact, there was almost no evidence of the storm at all, and I looked really hard. It took me three days before I noticed a few roof tiles missing and gaps in the thatched roof, spotted only because workmen were signing as they completed their repairs. General manager Antonio Parrado told me: “We prepared as best we could, and afterwards the debris was all cleared within two days”.
So, I got on with having a thoroughly wonderful time. Thanks to the ‘Dine Around’ program in the all inclusive package, guests have access to 14 restaurants within the wider resort, nine of them à la carte. After a swim. I had breakfast on the beach every morning at Helios restaurant. The huge buffet will please everyone, offering sashimi, pastry delights, fried comforts, freshly squeezed juices and a whole table selection of fresh fruits, and much more. Lunchtime beach BBQs often turned into a dance party, before an afternoon snooze. Electric buggies taxi guests around the resort to dinner at some lovely restaurants.
Paisana transported me to Argentina for steaks often served with eye-catching takes on the chimichurri dressing. Atthe Mexican themed Adelita, I tucked into delicious crispy battered Tuna tacos, whilst at Sumptuori, expect impromptu entertainment from a multitalented chef who may show off their singing and dancing skills whilst preparing your dinner teppanyaki style.
There’s always a party afterwards and talented performers make any space a stage at any given time. Dance troops in dazzling outfits get people up and dancing and stay for the night, putting on a properly decent show. Metres away, musicians accompanied fire performers on the beach where there are DJs. Don’t miss Chic Cabaret & Restaurant for a night of spectacular aerial stunts over a 7 course dinner.
As I reflected on my trip, based on my experience, I simply couldn’t imagine that a destructive hurricane had torn through the country only days before my arrival. There was little evidence or talk of such an event. Reassured from my research, I absolutely made the right decision to go ahead as planned, and was rewarded with a taste of Caribbean paradise.
The resort staff took great pride in the fact that they could recover so quickly. The clean up effort was so good that many tourists probably weren’t even aware that the hurricane had occurred. They seemed happy that people were enjoying the beautiful beaches of the Dominican republic, and encouraged us to return soon. I urge you to support those affected by the Turkey earthquake by booking a holiday to their wonderful country.
Visit the Dominican Republic yourself
BA Holidays offers one week at TRS Turquesa Hotel in a Junior Suite Poolside room on an all-inclusive basis from£1,625perperson,basedon2 sharing, including flights from London Gatwick. Flights to Punta Cana International Airport take 9hours. The resort is a 30minute drive from the airport. Istanbul and the Dalaman coast remain open for tourists despite the Turkey earthquake.
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