Tourism security audit not a knee-jerk reaction to bad press, says Bartlett

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The security audit being conducted at hotels and attractions islandwide is not a reflex reaction to recent stories in the overseas media that paint Jamaica in a negative light, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has assured.

“I want it to be very clear that this is not a knee-jerk reaction to any kind of media or any intervention in the last few weeks, months or even years, because the whole business of tourism safety and security is fundamental to tourism itself,” Bartlett told a Tourism Safety and Security Forum held at Montego Bay Convention Centre yesterday.

“It is the underpinning which enables a sense of well-being of visitors crossing borders. It is a feeling that must pervade the persona of travellers before they even leave their destination and, therefore, it is a responsibility and a duty for recipient destinations to ensure that the well-being of visitors are secured,” Bartlett added.

Jamaica, he noted, “has done an excellent job over the years, and in comparative terms we are on top of the scale of safe and secure destinations across the world”.

He pointed out that the incidence of infractions against tourists in Jamaica is .01 per cent. “But the objective is not to have .01 per cent, the objective is to have zero per cent. The objective is to ensure a pristine, clear, and clean destination. So whenever there are statements, either allegations or indeed factual, our job is to jump on it immediately and to deal with it and to clear the air — because what hurts tourism and a destination more than anything else is perception,” Bartlett stated.

“Perception sometimes leads to facts, but perception may have nothing to do with facts, and so one of the things that we have to do to make sure that we make that distinction is what is perceived to be a position,” he said.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang concurred that Jamaica has a history of minimal incidence of crime against tourists.

“In terms of the safety of our visitors, the country has an enviable record. For the many years that tourism has been in Jamaica we have had little of any personal threat to the visitor. In fact, one of the remarkable events in Jamaica is that even in communities that are considered very challenged you have visitors walking through on a regular basis and staying there. It may in fact reflect some symbiosis between visitors and the regular communities,” the security minister said.

However, he was quick to point out that Jamaicans “are sensitive to the fact that there is a wider need to show the entire community and the wider society, and internationally and locally, the capacity of our security forces to ensure that citizens in Jamaica can move around safely and securely”.

The audit, being led by the Tourism Product Development Company and guided by international security expert Dr Peter Tarlow, is part of efforts to ramp up the island's destination assurance programme.

Dr Tarlow, who spoke at the forum, said that in tourism “it's not necessarily what happens, it's how well you deal with it”.

“Tourism has a lag time and that means when something goes wrong, no matter how good you are it doesn't get changed instantly, and therefore a negative story becomes an expensive story. It only takes one or two stories to create that.”

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