Take crime off front pages, Bartlett urges - Minister says media coverage of murders could hurt booming tourism sector
While acknowledging the role of the media in a free democracy, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that graphic details of crime in Jamaica can destroy all the gains that have been made in the tourism sector in recent years.
"No one wants to wake up and see a front-page story in our newspapers stating, 'Jamaica bleeds'," Bartlett told delegates attending the 56th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.
Arguing that there needs to be a partnership between media and tourism, Bartlett warned that the news being put out has the potential to influence the choices of consumers.
Admitting that the media landscape has changed, Bartlett argued that the gatekeepers have a job to create content and own its narratives.
Avoid knee-jerk reactions
The tourism minister said that the Government will stand resolute in the fight against crime; however, the media must avoid bizarre and knee-jerk reactions, which can cause dislocation in the market.
In the last week, crime has dominated the news in Jamaica. Last Friday, in the tourism capital of Montego Bay, there was mayhem as marauding gunmen murdered a man who had just left the precincts of the Montego Bay Parish Court.
The latest incident and a number of others have caused the JHTA to express grave concerns for the industry, tourism workers and communities.
"The threat of crime has the ability to erode 'Destination Jamaica' and cut off the tourism sector at the knees. We cannot allow this plague to continue to grow - new approaches must be explored with urgency," JHTA President Omar Robinson told members during the AGM.
The organisation's leadership is slated to meet with Commissioner of Police George Quallo, and Robinson charged that the proposal for CCTV cameras in resort towns across the island must be revisited with urgency.
The JHTA meeting came at a time when Jamaica's tourism sector is experiencing a banner period, recording US$1.2 billion in earnings and a historic one million visitor arrivals in six months.
"We are experiencing a 4.5 per cent growth, which is in line with our forecast of five per cent by end of year," said Bartlett.
At the ceremony for the one-millionth visitor at the Sangster International Airport last Thursday, Bartlett said Jamaica has been experiencing a kind of purple patch, where there is no telling how high the arrival numbers can go.