Providing a secure and safe Jamaica for tourists is a top priority by Edmund Bartlett, the current minister of tourism. Dr. Peter Tarlow was commissioned to begin an audit of the current travel safety situation in this Caribbean island country last week. Dr. Tarlow recently teamed up with eTN to lead the eTN Travel Security Training consulting program.
I first visited Jamaica over three decades ago. During that first trip, I was disappointed. I found service to be awful, people to be rude and the land was pockmarked by garbage.
The media during these decades reinforced that first negative impression. Reading the local media, Jamaica seemed to be the last place that I would want to visit.
Last week, I learned that my impression of Jamaica as a violent and unfriendly tourist destination was completely inaccurate. I spent time in both Montego Bay and Kingston.
From the moment I arrived, I was greeted with smiles and a sense of caring. This was not the Jamaica that I remembered or expected. The road from the airport to the hotel runs along the sea. It was filled with new hotels, clean streets and from the road, I could see a beautiful crystal clear sea.
It was a sea that complimented the greenery along the road.
Meeting with security personnel, police agents and hoteliers once again I had to change my opinion. From what I had read in the media I was under the impression that the police did not care.
Meeting with police officers I also had to change that impression. The police officers, although undermanned and underequipped, wanted to learn about tourism policing. Much to the contrary to what I had read police officials showed a real dedication to stretch themselves and provide the safest tourism environment possible.
Being in Jamaica, I read the local media.
The newspapers and broadcasters painted a picture of former Jamaica. The media created a world that was far from what the average visitor will experience. It would be incorrect to state that Jamaica does not have its problems.
Jamaican officials well understand that there is much to be done, that they dare not rest on past achievements and that it takes only one or two negative events to damage their country’s reputation.
What impressed me, however, was that instead of fleeing from their problems or trying to hide them, Jamaican security and tourism officials were able to discuss these problems in an open and honest way.
They may not have all the answers, violence, unfortunately, has been with humanity ever since Cain murdered Able, but to the question, Cain posed to God as part of his failed cover-up: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Jamaican officials have answered with a resounding; yes!
I felt this yes, this sense of caring throughout my journey, from unknown pedestrians who stopped me to ask if I needed anything, to the tourism employees who continuously stated: I love my job, I love being with visitors.
“What I learned from this past week is that there are two Jamaicas.
One is Jamaica as painted in a number of influential media, and the Jamaica that is a place filled with love and hospitality.
My opinion of Jamaica has changed and I shall look forward to my next visit.