By Garwin Davis,
NEWLY-ELECTED HEAD of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Josef Forstmayer, said that the violence in West Kingston will have a negative impact on tourism.
He pointed to the incident being the lead story on the BBC main television newscast as something that will further affect the country's image abroad. CNN has also been providing round-the-clock coverage.
"No doubt this is very bad for us," Mr. Forstmayer said. "Will this affect us, maybe, but I say we have to move on. There is no way we can allow ourselves to simply fold over and die."
The embassies of the United States and Canada and the British High Commission have issued special advisory to their citizens warning them to stay clear of volatile areas in Jamaica.
Mr. Forstmayer said that he was expecting other countries to issue travel advisories based on what has been happening but noted that so far, all the travel warnings have been fair and accurate. "We have been in contact with the US State Department and they are fully appraised of the situation," he noted. "They have, however, been pointing out to their citizens the exact geographical location where the flare-ups are taking place."
Mags Senner of the British High Commission said that while the Commission has been advising British subjects about the violence-prone areas in the city of Kingston, they have been careful to point out that the north coast remains relatively peaceful.
"We have done only a basic advisory to keep our citizens abreast of what has been taking place and about areas they should stay clear of," she said. "We have also let them know that it is not the entire Jamaica which is affected."
Michael Korff-Rodrigues of the US Embassy said that "the advisory we sent out is one that we would normally put out if there is an emergency such as an earthquake, a hurricane or a sudden outburst of violence".
"Even though it is too early to tell, with all the international media interest we have been seeing, the tourism industry could be seriously affected," said Horace Peterkin, general manager at Sandals Montego Bay Resort. "We can only hope that what is happening in Kingston will not be carried over to the rest of the country as this could do some real damage to the tourism sector."
Frederick March, general manager of Enchanted Gardens and area chairman for the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) agreed. According to him, the industry, already in dire straits, cannot afford to take another beating.
"Bookings have been down and projection as it is does not look so bright," Mr. March said. "The last thing we need is for something like this to further tarnish our image." He pointed out that the country has a serious image problem overseas and that travellers are afraid of coming to Jamaica.