Anti-visitor harassment measures bearing fruit, says Bartlett

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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TOURISM Minister Edmund Bartlett says anti-visitor harassment measures being implemented in resort areas are bearing fruit.

These include training programmes and sensitisation workshops for front-line industry representatives interacting directly with visitors; and heightened vigilance and patrols by resort security officers.

Bartlett says the positive outcomes are evidenced in Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) visitor opinion surveys which show that 60 per cent of the tourists visiting Jamaica recently were satisfied with their experience.

“Also noteworthy is the fact that 42 per cent of our visitors are repeat guests. Our intention is for those numbers to be even higher as the visit should resonate so well with those who land on our soil, that they will unhesitatingly and consistently give us an A+ rating,” the minister adds.

The anti-visitor harassment measures are enabling guests to move around more freely, which contributed to Jamaica being recently voted the number one Caribbean destination and among the top 20 globally, by the highly respected American travel and restaurant website company, TripAdvisor, Inc.

These developments are welcoming news for the Administration, in light of industry stakeholders' concerns that unless visitor harassment is decisively addressed, it could potentially erode brand Jamaica's renown as a highly sought-after destination of choice for tourists, and overshadow the sector's record visitor arrivals and foreign exchange earnings.

While acknowledging the positive outturns emanating from the interventions, sector interests also urge that these be sustained and others introduced, so as to avoid the onset of complacency that could give rise to a resurgence in the prevalence of visitor harassment.

It is a point which Prime Minister Andrew Holness emphasised while speaking with stakeholders during a recent tour of Falmouth, Trelawny.

“A guest who doesn't feel pressured is more likely to spend and interact. That guest is also more likely to come back with his or her family for a longer stay, which is a win-win [situation] for all of us,” he argued.

Holness further emphasised the importance of training, noting that those who interact daily with visitors should be cognizant that “what we deem as normal” is not necessarily something that visitors are comfortable with.

Training and certification are being facilitated by the Government through the newly established Jamaica Centre of Tourism.

Additionally, the Falmouth Tour Guide Programme provides training designed to equip persons, deemed informal guides, with the skills and inputs that reposition them as official industry ambassadors.

“It all boils down to the knowledge that the guest must at all times feel free to walk the streets without feeling pressured to buy anything. A happy guest will always be willing to spend and, most importantly, will go back and spread the good word (about their experience),” Holness stated.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, who also toured Falmouth recently, has high praises for individuals trained under the Tour Guide Programme.

“They are now some of our best guides [and] are positively contributing to our tourism product. This is the kind of transformation we need to see in all our resort towns,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Minister Bartlett is emphasising that destination assurance, resulting from the creation of a safe and comfortable environment for visitors, is crucial to the tourism industry's ongoing expansion.

He points out that Jamaica can proudly boast that tourism contributes to approximately 10 per cent of the national gross domestic product, and impacts sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and entertainment.

The minister says most respondents to the JTB's visitor opinion survey highlight Jamaica's beauty and indicate that they are pleased with the facilities at their disposal.

He, however, notes their discomfort with the assertive approach displayed towards them by individuals with whom they interact while walking on the streets, arguing that with the threat of harassment, visitor spending decreases, “and so do our earnings”.

“It is our goal [to ensure] that visitors who step on our soil will feel a sense of peace of mind. This will allow them to traverse the nooks and crannies of the island and experience the rich taste of our culture and the many unique and diverse offerings,” Bartlett says.

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