Despite a recent travel advisory put out by the Canadian government that cautioned travel to Jamaica's St. James Parish, the island's Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Edmund Bartlett, assured travel partners and media that Jamaica is perfectly safe and is eager to welcome visitors.
“We don’t wait for disruptions to coerce this location [Jamaica], or to undermine the promise,” Bartlett said, speaking from this year’s Caribbean Travel Marketplace, hosted by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Authority in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “The recent elevated security measures we introduced in the Montego Bay area to co-authorize the heightened incidents of internal dislocation among certain elements of the community were all designed to ensure that we maintain that reputation that Jamaica has had over the years. In other words, tourism in Jamaica is less than one per cent, which is enviable across the globe, but we wanted our partners to know that we are showing zero tolerance towards any escalation of criminality within our shores, and that’s not about tourism, it’s about Jamaica; our citizens, our security towards access points for our own people; the safety and security of our own people and the seamlessness of them moving freely, and if we do that for Jamaica, we can do that for the world, and all of our visitors.”
On Jan. 18, the Canadian government enacted a travel advisory for travellers to Jamaica’s St. James Parish area, following the enactment of a state of emergency for the region by the Jamaican government due to a recent spike in gun violence and other crime.
Although the original 14-day state of emergency has now been extended until May 2, 2018 by the country’s House Representatives as of last week, the Honourable Edmund Bartlett, Ministry of Tourism, Jamaica, echoed previous messages by Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, that tourism in Jamaica is still business as usual, and perfectly safe.
“Travel advisories are one of the banes of tourism, as many of you all know, but it’s the duty of states to care in regard to its citizens, so our job is to ensure that the narratives are as acceptable and as soft as possible, and the good thing about the ones that were issued in Jamaica were not at the elevated level, which were not to say ‘don’t go’; they were Level 2, which means ‘yes, go, have fun, but just be careful’; just like we put out for Canada, the UK, and the other free countries of the world.”
The Minister continued: “Last year was a phenomenal year in growth for my country [Jamaica], we broke all records and brought in 4.3 million visitors at a growth rate of 12 per cent which is nearly twice the growth rate of the world. That meant 500,000 additional visitors came to Jamaica in one single year which is the highest incremental increase in the Caribbean. We also earned nearly $3B USD.”
Jamaica represents a country that is dependent on tourism, and one in five workers are employed by the tourism sector. “Last year, we had 29,000 additional jobs created, of which 11,000 were directly from tourism,” Minister Bartlett said. “As a destination, we continue to provide a valuable proposition for the visitor that is born out of three critical “s”’s: safety, security, and seamlessness, and we are driven by ensuring that that promise in the market is never second-guessed by the visitor who comes to our shores, and as a result, from time-to-time, we have to look at the security arrangements that we have to elevate the levels of security in order to maintain we maintain and preserve our promise.”
The Minister concluded his presentation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, expressing that he hopes this clarification on the events unfolding in Jamaica will help put an end to some of the skittishness that’s come about in regards to visiting Jamaica. As a destination with a 42 per cent repeat business, Jamaica depends on solid reports from international tourists, which is why safety and security remain a top priority.
A growing hub for education, next year, Jamaica will host the CHTA's 37th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from Jan. 29 to 31, 2019. The event will be held in collaboration with the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association and the Jamaica Tourist Board.