Gov't appoints tourism security boss

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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JAMAICA has taken another step in boosting safety and security within its tourism industry by appointing a former Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) officer, Major Dave Walker, as its visitor safety and experience director.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett made the announcement to media personnel at his ministry yesterday, and introduced Major Walker, who has also had experience working with the Caribbean Community's (Caricom) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), as well as the military in Sierra Leone, Africa.

Bartlett said Major Walker served initially with the JDF before he was seconded to IMPACS and eventually assisted in the transformation of the Sierra Leone military.

He said that safety, security and seamlessness form part of the promise that the ministry has made to the tourism market, in response to the challenges created by recent reports of breaches of the industry's safety and security measures to protect vacationers.

“We have to ensure that there is no second-guessing of the quality of that promise and, therefore, we are building out a strong safety and security framework, with a team that is qualified and competent as a sure way of securing that promise,” the minister said.

“We want the world to know that we are not just aware of the problem, but we are doing something about it, and what we want to do about it, and are in fact doing about it, is to eliminate the problem over time,” he added.

Bartlett also made note of the contribution to the security audit, which formed the basis for the decision to appoint a security director for the industry, from Dr Peter Tarlow, an international tourism security expert who also attended the briefing.

The report of the intensive islandwide security audit of Jamaica's tourism sector provided a report with recommendations which was released to the minister in June for his review. The results of those consultations have formed the basis for several new developments in the industry, which the minister plans to pursue.

The changes will also affect the tenure of licences granted to hotels in the local industry.

Bartlett explained that currently the hotels are all allowed to continue to operate indefinitely with the licence they are issued at the start of their operations. However, amendments are to be made to the Tourism Act, which will necessitate renewal every 15 years.

The minister said that Walker and his security team also have the responsibility to produce a new manual on tourism ethics prior to the start of the coming bumper winter season.

“This is very important because this is going to guide the way in which engagements are had between visitors and workers, and the destination in general,” he explained.

He said that the ministry plans to take a serious approach towards the use of the manual because every investor who comes to Jamaica will be given a copy to take note of what is acceptable and appropriate behaviour within the local industry.

However, he said that the rules would not be “cast in stone”, as enough flexibility would be allowed to respond to the changes that are certain to take place over time.

Bartlett also predicted that July 2019 would set a record, as the biggest July ever for visitor arrivals. He said that the arrivals have already exceeded last July's 250,000. He added that the ministry was also predicting the arrival of three million visitors by the beginning of August.

“This is telling you that the growth of the industry is continuing apace, and we have to make sure that we keep it in immaculate condition, at all times,” he added.

Also attending the briefing were: Dr Carey Wallace, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund; Dr Andrew Spencer, executive director of the Tourism Product Development Company; and Delano Seiveright, strategist/adviser in the ministry.


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