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 keeps rising in the country and local authorities are fighting to suppress 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 killed. That is the reality.”

The US Department of State on October 5, it issued a Level 3 travel advisory, stating that Americans should “reconsider travel” due to an increased risk of crime in the country. The notice 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 police lack the resources to effectively respond to serious criminal incidents,” the notice stated. “Emergency services vary across the island and response times may differ from US standards. The Government of Jamaica’s reported homicide rate has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.”

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Jamaica seemed to recognize the seriousness of its problem by declaring state of emergency on November 15 in order to better empower authorities to deal with crime in the capital Kingston, as well as popular tourist spots like Montego Bay, then issued a renewed state of emergency on December 6 due to increased violence and gangs. crimes

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.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the State Department in Washington on April 1, 2022.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the State Department in Washington on April 1, 2022.
(Olivier Douliery/Pool via Reuters/File)

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

Tourism offers Jamaica their main source of income, representing up to 29% of the country’s GDP in 2019 (before the pandemic) according to Statista, and linked to remittances (money or goods sent back by nationals who 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.

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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 one-two punch 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.

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.

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.
(Reuters/Gilbert Bellamy)

“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.

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“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.

Katz also highlighted the increased need to focus on safety when traveling, noting the situation in Peru where hundreds of American tourists are not allowed to leave the country. due to the protests that broke out last week after the removal of Pedro Castillo from his position 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.

Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica
(David I Muir/Jamaica Tourist Board/dpa-tmn)

“I ask people all the time: Where are you going to go? Do they have a professional fire department? What are the traffic laws? What are the fatal traffic accident statistics?” Katz, 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 the border?”

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

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

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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