Rethink visitor harassment strategy, says expert
A Jamaica-born tourism expert has called for changes to be made to the Ministry of Tourism's anti-harassment campaign.
Dr Annmarie Nicely, assistant professor at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Purdue University, United States, said that her research on visitor harassment indicates there are significant gaps in Jamaica's anti-harassment campaign.
"From the research, we found that Jamaica was very good at communicating that harassment was bad, but there was no articulation as to what the alternative should be. I think, for the traders ,we constantly tell them not to engage in these behaviours but there is not much initiative focused on telling them what to do instead," she said.
Nicely also argued that varying views about what constitutes harassment continues to pose a challenge.
"What is harassment, to me, might not be harassment to you so there is a lack of clarity as to which behaviours constitute harassment; so you (are) asking someone to stop something when, in their minds, there is nothing wrong. ... if you go into the market the vendors will tell you that they don't harass anyone, when they might be calling to the visitor, and not seeing it as harassment. So there has to be a clear articulation as to what constitutes harassment and what doesn't " she added.
According to Nicely, the anti-harassment campaign rolled out by the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment is flawed in its approach.
"I think they try very hard with the campaign but, from a learning standpoint, the model is a little bit flawed in that there are certain aspects of learning that the initiative has ignored, not deliberately but, when you look at the bigger picture, ... there are gaps and hence why the results have not been as sustainable as they could have been. I think they need to step back a little bit and really look at those areas, that they are not addressing, that might be limiting traders acquisition of the required trading behaviour," the researcher said.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill, in his Sectoral Debate presentation in April, said his ministry would be working aggressively to rid Jamaica of the problem of visitor harassment. Exit surveys conducted by the Jamaica Tourist Board, in 2007, indicated that 35 per cent of visitors reported being harassed.
Nicely and another researcher at Purdue University are conducting a global research on visitor harassment. This, she said will provide more understanding about the issue.
"We are conducting the study because we want to understand the extent of the problem, the effect of visitor harassment on loyalty behaviour. Even though there has been a lot of talk and persons have been posting negative comments online, we really don't know for sure, exactly, the effect of visitor harassment on a destination," she told The Gleaner.
Nicely said she hopes to wrap up the study by the end of the year. Individuals can participate in the study by visiting www.visitorharassment.com.