Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Harassment threatening Falmouth’s tourism

Published:Friday | July 22, 2016 | 7:00 AMOkoye Henry
Tour bus drivers await visitors as they enter Falmouth town from the pier.

Western Bureau:

Stakeholders in Falmouth, Trelawny, are worried that unless curtailed quickly, the twin vices of tourist harassment and a general lack of order could derail the resort town's bid to become a vibrant economic centre, especially with regard to keeping its cruise-shipping business buoyant.

While participating in a recent Gleaner Growth Forum in Falmouth, several stakeholders expressed concerns that constant harassment was causing cruise passengers not to leave their vessels, robbing them of a chance to enjoy the Jamaican tourism experience.

"When you have a tourist coming off a pier and they see a group of men standing outside the gate in white shirts, I don't think a tourist can tell who is the police different from [tour bus drivers]," said North Trelawny Member of Parliament Victor Wright.

" ... The visitors need to feel a sense of freedom to move around, which is difficult as things are."

HOGGING THE SHOW

Since the coming on stream of the Falmouth Pier, many stakeholders have expressed concerns about the modus operandi of the ground transport operators, who crowd the entrance of the pier from where they seek to conduct business with the visitors.

"I think what has happened is the indiscipline among members (transport operators) who think they are the only ones who have the right to talk to the visitors," said Falmouth Mayor Garth Wilkinson.

"This could be viewed as harassment, so we need to do something to fix that situation."

Wilkinson explained that setting up an area where only three tour vehicles are parked on a daily basis with the appropriate schedules could prove to be a workable solution. However, he said such a system is yet to be implemented.

"It comes back to asking the police to help us with the policing aspect of it so that we can deal with the vending and the 'cotch-up' carriage operators," said Wilkinson.

In explaining that the police were ready to assist, Superintendent Clive Blair, the commanding officer for Trelawny, gave the assurance that his team would continue to maintain a strong presence near the pier during the visits of cruise vessels.

"One of the challenges we face is that you may find one or two persons going further down into the town and they get harassed," said Blair.

"We have put some plain-clothes police in those areas to mitigate against that."

In putting the harassment situation in context, Dennis Meadows, the JLP caretaker for North Trelawny, said the poor economic situation was what was pushing some persons towards harassing the visitors.

"They see the pier as an oasis in the wilderness of poverty and despair," said Meadows, "so they want some of the economic benefits to improve their lives."