Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, ST Ann:
TOURIST HARASSMENT has been a sore point affecting the tourism sector and continues to impact the industry negatively. In fact, surveys have shown it to be the main problem affecting the industry.
Perhaps the main factor preventing the cessation of this practice is that perpetrators do not see their actions as harassment.
One form of harassment is pressuring guests to buy or do things they do not want.
Last weekend, The Gleaner spoke with two visitors to the island who were among a group that spent a week's vacation in Ocho Rios. The two - Todd Webb and Mike Garner from Idaho in the United States of America - were only too happy to share their views as they believe this could help ease harassment.
Webb, who is on his third visit to Jamaica, made some comparisons between his first trip some 20 years ago and today, and his experiences at the world-renowned attraction, Dunn's River Falls.
"Approximately 20 years ago, I came on a cruise ship and we did the Dunn's River Falls. At that time, they didn't have the high-pressure (craft) shop at the top of the falls, and then eight years ago we came again and it was there, and it's worse now," Webb said.
"But what I noticed yesterday when we went, what we didn't see the time before, everybody that came up to the top of those falls they got through there as quickly as they could and they not even stopped at the shops."
Questioned as to the reason, Webb declared: "They're scared. It's scary. And not just scary, it's people trying to pressure you to buy things that you don't want. I mean, there's a lot of good stuff, there are good souvenirs, but it's that pressure that the very aggressive people put on you to buy; put things in your hand and try to make you take it; then they hold their hand out and say 'Don't disrespect me'. They want you to shake their hand so they can put something in, you know."
Webb said such an approach only serves to drive away potential customers.
"It's sad because if they would just hold back and be civil, there would be a lot of money spent in those places. That's all people want, they just want people to be friendly, not to pressure them. Everywhere we go here people are friendly, everybody, the hotel staff is great, but the last thing we want is to be pressured into buying stuff. We come here with money to spend, we want to go home with something."
Garner, who was visiting Jamaica for the first time, found the experience disturbing.
"Don't pressure me. I won't spend a penny if you do. I won't buy from somebody that pushes me and that's sad because, as Todd said, that's money we would have spent but we're not going to now. And that's probably the only thing in Jamaica that I don't like, everything else has been fantastic!"