Community tourism cannot flourish in high-crime areas

Thursday, November 08, 2018

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Dear Editor,

For the second time in weeks I am reading criticisms of the pronouncement made by the prime minister in respect of crime-fighting strategies, particularly with respect to Trench Town. The latest angle is in the context of tourism. I hasten to point out that I am all too aware that tourism could be called the lifeblood of many Caribbean islands, and Jamaica is no exception. I therefore position my comments squarely against the background of insulating tourists from the ravages of crime and violence, whether at the all-inclusive resort level or the granular community level.

There is the view that by naming Trench Town a veil of blackness has been cast over the community. There is also the fear that this would significantly impact community tourism and severely damage the reputation of the area as the home of the legendary reggae icon, Bob Marley, which gives the community its prestige and cultural appeal where tourism is concerned.

While it is most undesirable to cast the community in a negative light, and while some are making much ado about it, noting the community's current crime statistics and it susceptibility to crime and violence were necessary to justify why the community falls within the characteristics of those requiring a state of emergency to be imposed.

The fact of the matter is that, like it or not, crime exists in Trench Town. Crime is dangerous for residents and it is dangerous for tourists. The Government is as much concerned for it citizens as it is for tourists whose destination loyalty and decision to come to Jamaica from among countless destinations worldwide drives our economy.

It would be entirely counterproductive for the Government, knowing full well how important tourism is to the economy, to do anything that would jeopardise the growth and survival of community tourism — an area it has been promoting in order to diversify our tourism product and offering.

The problem is that we assume tourists are immune to crime and violence, we assume criminals have a conscience, and we assume they care about the bigger picture. They do not! There have been all too many incidents demonstrating this. Tourists have been robbed, raped and murdered in Jamaica. It's not an easy truth to accept, but we can only move forward and treat with the issue aggressively if we acknowledge the problem.

If we want to promote community tourism then communities must be safe for both residents and tourists.

We should not be so preoccupied with the implications of naming a community which has great “potential” as a community tourism destination when crime is already a challenge there. What we should think about is the implication for Jamaica as a tourist destination when any kind of harm comes to even a single tourist, because it is more important to protect Trench Town's reputation than it is to tackle crime there and transform it into a booming community tourist destination.

News of a State of Emergency in Trench Town is far more pleasant than news of a tourist being harmed in the community of the legendary Bob Marley.

The goal, I am certain, is to eradicate crime there and establish it as a model for community tourism. To that extent, I welcome the imposition of a state of emergency in the area; the residents and the future of tourism there will be the better for it.

S Grey

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