Tourist harassment still a problem
Although tourist harassment is not as prevalent as it was in the 1990's, when about 60 per cent of visitors complained about being harassed, this practice is still a lingering and annoying phenomenon. It is now reported that 33 per cent of visitors have experienced varying degrees of overt harassment.
The incidents of concentrated harassment mainly occur around shopping centres, in the streets and on the beaches according to media reports.
However, it should be understood that this irritant is not peculiar to the island of Jamaica. Harassment of visitors seems to be a worldwide phenomenon that exists in urban areas plagued with very high unemployment and underemployment.
On my visit to Russia, 20 years ago, tourist harassment was very prevalent in Moscow, that country's capital. Similarly, on my trip to Israel in 2010 tourists were constantly harassed, especially by impoverished children.
In any event, the harassers in Jamaica should not take comfort in the fact that they are not alone in this respect.
That being said, from my perspective, many harassers are not really bad people per se. They appear to be the victims of circumstance. They are people caught up in the abominable vortex of abject poverty, so hustling to survive has become an ingrained lifestyle. This is a dire situation in which they are trapped.
With little or no marketable skills, and very limited opportunities for educational advancement, the only means of earning a living in urban areas is through the selling of hand-made goods or illegal drugs.
Nevertheless, the economic plight of these harassers should not justify their antisocial actions. They should be conscious of the fact that these actions will only serve to exacerbate their plight in the long run. They should be made to realise that many tourists will become so annoyed and frustrated that they will eventually avoid the island like the plague. It is quite obvious that fewer tourists will definitely translate into fewer dollars for the purchase of goods and services.
It is no secret that tourism is a lucrative and highly competitive business. It is also common knowledge that the success or failure of the tourist industry is largely dependent on the attitude of those who run the enterprise, and those who earn a living from it.
There is no doubt that a country that nurtures and displays an endearing attitude to visitors will undoubtedly be more attractive and successful than a country that exhibits a persistent attitude of harassment towards visitors.