After three people were murdered in Jamaica last weekend, travellers to the island were warned not to hire self-drive cars but instead to take organised tours and taxis.
The recent deaths in the resort of Montego Bay brought the total number of people killed in Jamaica so far this year to about 700. Last year 1,574 people were murdered on the island, an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.
Most of the killings happen in the area of the capital, Kingston, well away from tourists. Despite the bloodshed, the number of British holidaymakers to the island rose last year by six per cent, to 185,000.
“There is no violence directed towards tourists,” said Burchell Whiteman, Jamaican High Commissioner to Britain. “Crime is localised and is all connected with gangs, guns and drugs.”
Most tourists to Jamaica stay in all-inclusive compounds and are being advised to take precautions if they go outside.
A spokeswoman for the holiday company TUI said that all but one of the hotels offered in Jamaica packages under its Thomson and First Choice brands are all-inclusive. It is encouraging clients to take organised tours and not to hire cars.
John Faithfull of Trips Worldwide, which specialises in Caribbean holidays geared to independent-minded travellers, said: “There’s always a bit of an underlying threat in Jamaica. In most of our other Caribbean destinations, we get a lot of requests for fly-drives with car hire, but not in Jamaica. If you take a wrong turning, you could end up somewhere you really don’t want to be.” Clients tend to use taxis to transfer between hotels or to explore, he said.
The Foreign Office has made little change to the safety section of its travel advice on Jamaica in the past year. It advises against walking or using buses at night and says walking alone on deserted beaches even in daylight hours is a risk.
“Unless you are fully acquainted with the route and are driving in daylight hours, you should not self-drive a car to or from Kingston International Airport,” it said.