Jamaica, like most destinations in the Caribbean, can look to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the name given to the recent passport restrictions put in place in January, for a decline in visitors for 2007. But there’s another reason Jamaica may not get as many Americans as it would like and it’s a reason that has hung over the country like a dark cloud long before the State Department implemented stronger passport restrictions.
It’s the same reason why Americans, or any traveler for that matter, are reluctant to visit many countries—safety. Or, shall we say, the belief that safety is an issue. Sure, there are many places in the world where safety is and should be a concern. But certain places such as Jamaica and Colombia, where Travel Agent recently visited, seem as though they will forever be unjustly branded with the exaggerated belief that they are unsafe for travelers.
Places in Jamaica, such as Kingston, can be dangerous, as can certain portions of Colombia—or any other country or city for that matter. But you can’t base your belief that a country is unsafe because of a small portion of it. Cartagena, Colombia was one of the most beautiful places we have been in a while yet many people are still shocked when we tell them so. And the same goes when we tell people about recent trips to Jamaica. One reason why perhaps this image hasn’t gone away as quickly as these affected countries would like it is perhaps due to the human nature of remembering the bad more than the good. People tend to remember negative publicity over positive news, which is why many countries need to promote the good they are doing to clear their image more than they are presently doing.
Furthermore, agents need to relay that news to clients.
Behind newly appointed Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, the tourism board is leading a charge to get the message across to U.S. travelers that Jamaica is safe. In fact, Bartlett, in an interview he conducted with Travel Agent, said Jamaica’s crime rate is currently .01 percent.
Furthermore, Bartlett, at an event we recently attended in New York City, admitted to attendees that the exaggerated perception of Jamaica as an unsafe country has been a thorn in its side for a long time and may have contributed to Americans not visiting as much as Jamaica would like.
Bartlett also said that the country is doing something about it.
“(On October12) a team of police officers returned from Miami where they received training in operating a Mobile Police Station,” Bartlett said. “This first one should be on the island within a couple of weeks, and will be assigned to Montego Bay. It comes fully equipped with surveillance equipment, mainly geared at intelligence gathering. We would rather prevent the next crime than clean it up.”
Bartlett said the country has spent $332,155 on surveillance to make sure people who intend to commit a crime and further damage Jamaica ‘s reputation realize “we are watching you.”
Now, it is up to you travel agents to make sure your clients know this, too. It’s much more effective to tell your clients specific actions the country is taking to make the country safer as opposed to simply telling them not to worry.
After all, we here at Travel Agent are fully aware that details always help in getting your point across.
When clients come back from a great, crime-free vacation in one of the Caribbean’s best destinations, they’ll thank you for it.