Jamaica re-imposes ‘state of emergency’, tourism industry threatened by high crime rate

Jamaica’s state of emergency may threaten its tourism industry as crime continues to rise in the country and local authorities fight to crack down on it.

“That’s all the government is trying to do,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, adding that Jamaicans “have to hide under their beds, hide their daughters, they can’t go to church and they see their children and their boyfriends and husbands murdered. Thats the reality”.

On October 5, the US Department of State issued a Level 3 travel advisory, stating that Americans should “reconsider travel” due to the increased risk of crime in the country. The advisory noted that “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common” and that “sexual assaults occur frequently,” even at all-inclusive resorts.

“Local law enforcement lacks the resources to effectively respond to serious criminal incidents,” the notice said. “Emergency services vary across the island and response times may vary from US standards. The murder rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
AFP via Getty Images

Jamaica appeared to acknowledge the seriousness of its problem by declaring a state of emergency on November 15 to better empower authorities to tackle crime in the capital Kingston, as well as popular tourist spots like Montego Bay, then issued a renewed state of emergency. emergency on December 6 due to increased violence and gang-related crime.

The state of emergency has proven controversial, as authorities can arrest people and search buildings without a warrant, which could lead to police abuse, critics argue, but Holness stressed the need to crack down on the problem.

“We have some really serious criminal threats in front of us, and we have to use all the powers at our disposal,” Holness said.

Tourism provides Jamaica with its main source of income, accounting for up to 29% of the country’s GDP in 2019 (pre-pandemic) according to Statista, and linked to remittances (money or goods sent back by nationals who have emigrated from the country). . Jamaica welcomed more than 1.5 million tourists in 2021 who spent more than $2.095 billion, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

A soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in the August Town community in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
A soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in the August Town community in Kingston, Jamaica, on December 7, 2022.
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And the US represented the most significant spend and best-performing market for tourists to the island, with fewer than 1.3 million layover arrivals (more than 24 hours for international travelers) in 2021.

The double whammy of a US travel advisory and a national state of emergency could significantly hamper Jamaica’s tourism industry and therefore threaten its economy, according to David Katz, a former US federal agent, Founder and CEO of Global Security Group. Inc.

“In years past, the State Department, depending on the political situation, was sometimes reluctant to even issue a warning,” Katz told Fox News Digital, explaining that a warning alone can hurt the economy and “generally doesn’t is well received by the subject”. of counseling.”

Katz noted that people will do a lot to ignore the travel advisory, but that Jamaica’s state of emergency will likely have a bigger impact and draw attention.

“For me, for Jamaica to say ‘we have a state of emergency, we’re completely out of control,’ that’s going to have an impact,” Katz said.

Tourism in Jamaica is the main source of income for the country.

Katz also highlighted the increased need to focus on travel safety, noting the situation in Peru where hundreds of American tourists are prevented from leaving the country due to protests that erupted last week following the removal of Pedro Castillo from office. as president. At least 200 Americans remain stranded in Machu Picchu with no chance to even return to their hotels, let alone return home, as protesters shut down trains, highways, and airport runways.

“I ask people all the time: Where are you going? Do they have a professional fire department? What are traffic laws? What are the statistics of fatal traffic accidents? Katz said, adding that “statistically, the largest number of Americans who are seriously injured or killed abroad [is] as a result of traffic accidents.

“So, you know, you want to see these things…you always need to understand some basics: do you need places to stay, do you need a way to get in and out, do you need medical care, does your health insurance cover you when you cross? border?”

“We would recommend in our practice: Postpone all non-essential travel unless there is something really, really critically needed about the travel. Put it off,” Katz said.

A request for comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jamaican tourism board was not immediately returned.

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