No surprise to latest US travel advisory on Jamaica; no fallout expected
Danae Hyman, Online Reporter
Jamaican government officials say they are not surprised by the latest advisory issued by the United States (US) Department of State warning its citizens against travelling to Jamaica.
“It’s no secret with the violence in the country and Spanish Town has one of the largest gangs in the island,” said Dr Horace Chang, minister of national security said when contacted by The Gleaner today.
For Delano Seiveright, senior adviser to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, the US government's advisory is nothing new and the latest bulletin is unlikely to impact the country's tourism industry.
“Jamaica is regarded internationally as a safe place for tourists, period. As a destination, we enjoy a very high repeat visitor rate of 42 per cent with an extremely low rate of crime against our visitors," he told The Gleaner today.
The tier two travel advisory issued by the US government on Friday warned that violent crimes such as home invasions, armed robberies and homicides are common within the island. For the US, a tier two warning means travellers should "exercise increased caution". Similar warnings have been issued for Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.
It advised Americans to avoid travelling to areas in Kingston such as: Cassava Piece, downtown Kingston - which is defined as between Mountain View Avenue and Hagley Park Road, and south of Half-Way Tree and Old Hope Road.
Trench Town, Tivoli Gardens and Arnett Gardens, Grants Pen and Standpipe in Kingston are also included.
In Montego Bay, it warned Americans not to visit areas like Canterbury, Clavers Street, Flankers, Hart Street, Norwood and Rose Heights.
The US State Department said its citizens should not visit anywhere in the island's old capital of Spanish Town, St Catherine.
According to the US government, the high level of crime and violence in these areas prevent the police from responding effectively.
Chang said the advisory from the US State Department was expected given the level of violence on the island, but advised that travellers should not be alarmed since violence against visitors is extremely low when compared to other destinations.
“We mostly have gang related violence with gangs fighting against each other. You hardly hear of violence against tourist so they have nothing to fear when they visit Jamaica,” Chang said.
The security minister acknowledged that the security forces faced resource constraints, but pointed out that both the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force were now in the middle of a recruitment drive to boost numbers.
And Seiveright reminded that "Minister Bartlett and the wider government has sought to actively ramp up security arrangements with the Ministry of Tourism conducting a security audit of the island's major hotels and attractions to ensure the safety of all guests".