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$350M Loss For Jamaican Tourism

Gang wars to cost Jamaican tourism dearly

May 31, 2010

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the country stands to lose US$350 million in earnings because of the unrest in Kingston last week resulting from the attack on the state by criminals seeking to block the arrest of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

According to Bartlett, approximately 300,000 fewer visitors may come to Jamaica this year.

"We had projected a growth of six per cent this year and we were on track, but this may be affected and right now we need US$10 million to combat the negative effect," he said.

During the unrest, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom issued travel advisories against Kingston, Jamaica.

The tourism minister spoke with The Gleaner during an extraordinary meeting with stakeholders, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the National Cruise Council of Jamaica and the New York-based advertising agency FCB yesterday at the Secrets Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.

He said that the plans to combat the challenges were still being fine-tuned.

Unwelcome publicity

The gang war between the police and gunmen in Tivoli Gardens, which left 73 civilians and three security officers dead, made headlines in most of the news media worldwide, sending jitters throughout the travel and tourist industry, on which Jamaica depends.

Although none of the six resort areas were part of the confrontations and are far from the capital city, the entire country got caught up in the unwelcome publicity.

"We are setting up a strategic response team, and our programme will include extensive road activities in all our supplier markets, namely the United States, Canada and the UK," Bartlett said.

He noted that although the fall-off in the resort areas was not significant, the effect on Kingston was horrendous. "Kingston has been the real casualty. The arrivals at Norman Manley International Airport have fallen significantly", he confirmed, adding that the city has experienced a reduction of 43 per cent in overseas-generated business.

The bigger problem for Kingston is the meeting and group activities which were cancelled at the last minute. Sporting events such as the West Indies cricket matches scheduled for Sabina Park in June had to be moved to Trinidad.

"Those matches usually bring good occupancy for the hotels in Kingston," Barrtlett said.

Summer booking concerns

Stakeholders in the metropolis are of the view that it will take up to 18 months to repair their name in the marketplace.

However, the net fall-out for the six resort areas amounts to approximately 2,000 visitors or two per cent of the arrivals during the similar period last year. Throughout the period of the unrest, some 125,000 tourists visited the island, Bartlett said.

Obviously not significantly affected now, the minister is more concerned about forward bookings for the summer months of July and August. "The level of the nervousness in the market could cause people to review their decision," he said.

According to Bartlett, if the situation is not cauterised within the next six months, it could affect the upcoming winter tourist season. To minimise the effect, he said a campaign programme to be developed should help to restore confidence and drive forward bookings.

"We have to continue to show that there are normal and buoyant activities in the resort areas and restore full trust in the destination."

Accordingly, there has been very active collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and its partners - the JHTA and the National Cruise Council of Jamaica - which Bartlett said are committing resources to the aggressive phased initiative which is to be launched.

Gang wars to cost Jamaican tourism dearly
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett / Image via


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