While the Canadian government is advising travellers heading to Jamaica’s St. James Parish to exercise caution following the commencement of a state of emergency in the region this week, the Jamaica Tourist Board is taking the news in stride.
And while Canadian tour operators are offering their guests flexible options on their bookings, flights and tours are continuing as normal.
The advisory, which reads “exercise a high degree of caution in Jamaica due to the high level of violent crime and the state of emergency in St James Parish,” comes after the Jamaican government issued a state of emergency which saw military forces deployed in the area on Jan. 18 amidst recent reports of increased crime and violence in the region, which includes Montego Bay.
In the advisory, the Canadian government states that “if you are staying at a resort in the affected area, restrict your movements beyond resort security perimeters. If you do travel outside these perimeters, use transportation arranged or provided by the resort. Use organized tour operators for excursions and travel to and from the airport. If you are in the affected area, be extremely vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local news.”
However, Philip Rose, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director for Canada, said that travellers shouldn’t necessarily panic at the news.
“Jamaica has always enjoyed very low crime rates against our visitors,” Rose told PAX. “However, there has been an uptick in criminal activity in the region and due to Jamaica’s relatively small police force, the government has asked for military assistance. Currently, it’s business as usual for both tourists and law-abiding locals; our visitors are still going on excursions and we expect this to be wrapped up very shortly.”
In a statement to PAX, Sunwing said that all flights, cruise and vacation packages are operating as scheduled. The tour operator, which recently launched service from Vancouver to Montego Bay, added that while the majority of its customers - more than 95 per cent - choose all-inclusive resorts, guests booked in a self-catering hotel in St James Parish have been given flexible re-accommodation options.
“We are in close contact with our destination team, who have advised us that while tourists are being encouraged to exercise a degree of caution, all tours and excursions are operating normally and there are no restrictions on their movements,” Sunwing said. “Jamaica is consistently one of our most popular destinations and we send approximately 5,000 visitors through Montego Bay airport each week without related incident. Customer safety and security is our primary concern and we will continue to seek the advice of the Canadian government, local government, and our local representatives on this matter and adjust our policies if required.
In response to the advisory, Transat stated that it "following the recommendation issued by the Canadian government, which advises travelers in the region of Montego Bay(Jamaica) to exercise a great deal of caution, and this is the guideline that we reiterate at destination. We will closely monitor the evolution of the situation."
WestJet has also issued a flexible change/cancel option for guests who booked on, or before Jan. 18, 2018 for travel until Jan. 25, 2018, who wish to delay or change their plans. The details can be found here.