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Bartlett says Jamaica must show that visitors are protected

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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WESTERN BUREAU — Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says while the destination is powerless against the issuing of travel advisories it is important to show international partners that the nation is working to improve measures to protect visitors from harassment.

A new travel advisory, posted on the US State Department's website last week, said violent crimes such as home invasions, armed robberies, homicides and sexual assaults occur frequently, even at resorts, and that the Jamaican police “lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents”.

Americans were advised not to travel to some areas of Kingston, Montego Bay, St James and Spanish Town, St Catherine.

“We must leave the world with a feeling that we are doing something about it and that we are willing to battle. If our neighbours and our family and our market feel that this battle is overwhelming us, they will not come to us. That's why Egypt had the problem,” Bartlett stated on the weekend.

He noted that his role is to take the message globally that steps are being taken to rectify the situation.

“People wonder perhaps why I haven't responded to these advisories and so on. You can't fight that. What you have to do is to correct, [and that] is to do what you must do; I'm a marketer and that's my job. My job is to go out there and make the world feel better about me and about this great country,“ said the tourism minister.

He noted that of the 11 reports of sexual offences against the more than 4.3 million visitors to the island last year, the figure constituted those cases which were dropped after the emergence of proof that they were consensual. Some cases involved foreigners, while the few involving locals were prosecuted.

However, he explained that the international partners are not interested in the statistics, instead they are keen to learn what moves are made to deal with the cases prosecuted.

“I say, well look at these statistics and in particularly… I am speaking of there were 11 cases throughout the entire country.And then the response to me is that the issue is not so much the case of consensual situations where it was dropped or the case of foreigners being involved, the issue is that we don't get enough information about the steps that are being taken to deal effectively and swiftly with those cases that we prosecuted. And I stood back and said well I understand in part because sometimes it is difficult for an entire destination to be blacklisted for a single incident or two. But that's the nature of the game and we can't fight that,” Bartlett argued.

He was speaking Sunday at the opening ceremony for the Tourism Product Development Company Limited's sensitisation workshop on harassment for parish judges, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

The workshop included an extensive look at the impact that harassment has on the tourism sector, as well as the strategies employed to assist in curtailing the issue. The workshop is envisaged to increase greater awareness on the issue of harassment, and to generate buy-in from the judiciary in the fight against the problem.

In the meantime, Bartlett argued that “the issue of visitor harassment has played out more in terms of how we deal with the harassers than how we deal with the harassment itself in the minds of the visitors”.

For instance, he noted that 42 per cent of visitors are repeat guests.

“Now if one in every two persons you see in the beach everyday has been to Jamaica at least once before, we must be doing something reasonably right. Yes, it immediately speaks to a destination that is desirable and one that you feel fairly safe and secure and comfortable in. Because you not just come once, you come twice, in many instances people has come a 100 times. I met a couple on the beach in Negril that was coming for the 50th year in a row. So it means something is happening right there,” the tourism minister argued.

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