Tourism sector nervous
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
The tourism sector is on edge, but none of the island's hotels have been hit by the current controversy surrounding to the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition order, say stakeholders in the industry.
In fact, the issue seem foreign to the resort towns of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril and Port Antonio and the south coast where it is business as usual.
Hotel occupancy is now averaging 80 per cent.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is encouraged by the growth of the tourism sector, which the Planning Institute of Jamaica reports expanded by six per cent during the first quarter of 2010.
Richard Bourke, a director of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), said there had been no cancellations or concerns from tour operators and travel agents about the tension in west Kingston but said there were concerns.
"We are deeply concerned that the situation could change very quickly due to any ill-advised move resulting in civil unrest," said Bourke, who is also general manager of the Breezes Trelawny Resort.
He reiterated concerns by the president of JHTA, Wayne Cummings, noting that the associa-tion was disappointed about what was happening, but would hold Prime Minister Bruce Golding to all the promises he made in his broadcast to the nation on Monday night.
Both the Sangster International and Norman Manley airports remained busy throughout the week with chief commercial officer at Sangster, Elizabeth Scotton, confirming that there has been no indication from airlines that there will be any changes to their schedules.
"We are fairly insulated in Montego Bay; most of the airlines know that most of their people are going to the north coast."
She said arrivals for the first two weeks of the month were about the same level as the first two weeks of 2009.
"This is very positive. Obviously, we would want to see more traffic through the airport, but are happy to be at the same level." Average aircraft movement at the airport is 258 per week, with approximately 53,700 passengers inbound and outbound.
Officials at Norman Manley International Airport say they have been tracking the situation, but there has been no noticeable difference in the number of arrivals into that facility.
However, local airline operator of Jamaica Air Shuttle, Chris Reid, says he was forced to move two of his Beach 99 aircraft from the Tinson Pen aerodrome to the Norman Manley for safe keeping last night.
Jamaica Air Shuttle flies between Montego Bay and Kingston.
"The Airports Authority has warned that they can't offer us security at Tinson Pen," he told The Gleaner.
Tinson Pen neighbours a number of volatile communities.
Reid said that since Prime Minister Golding's admission in Parliament last Tuesday, his bookings have plummeted, "No one wants to come into Kingston." The businessman is counting his loss at US$8,000 (J$712,000) per day.