Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Tourist harassment trending down

Published:Friday | February 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
In this file photo a group of Russian tourists seem to be in awe of the scenes in Port Royal.

Complaints by visitors to Jamaica have been trending down over the past five years despite a recent travel advisory issued by the United States Department of State, warning tourists to avoid secluded places or situations, even in resorts.

Last month, the US Department of State, in a restructured travel advisory, warned its citizens that "sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts". It added that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) was unable to deal with serious crimes effectively because of resource constraints.

But figures provided by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), in response to an Access to Information request, show that over the period 2012 to 2017, an average of 86 complaints were filed annually by visitors.

In 2012, there were 107 complaints but this was reduced to 68 last year.

Poor customer service, harassment, misrepresentation to visitors, and a lack of security in the accommodation sector, particularly small and non-compliant properties, topped the list of complaints over the period.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says efforts have been made to ensure that visitors have a hassle-free stay in the island.

"We have just put in place 250 district constables - you could call them 'tourist police' - and they are working under the direction of the officers of the JCF," said Bartlett.

"So they are clothed with the authority to arrest and also to prosecute, and we think that is a very useful addition to what we had before, in terms of the courtesy corps, who were really 'decorated officers' who had no power," added Bartlett.

In the meantime, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, told The Gleaner that stakeholders have moved to address concerns cited in the complaints.

"The JTB, JHTA and key industry partners have been running consistent seminars in the accommodation and attraction sectors with respect to vital areas such as security guidelines, general customer service, and service recovery," said Robinson.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com