Travel agents, tour ops taking Jamaica situation in stride: “It really is business as usual”
Negril, Jamaica

Travel agents, tour ops taking Jamaica situation in stride: “It really is business as usual”

TORONTO — Travel advisors and tour operators are taking Jamaica’s state of emergency in stride – and from the sounds of things, most travellers are too.

A state of emergency declaration loosens government purse strings to free up more money to add resources to help deal with a crisis, anything from crime in some countries, to political unrest in others, to devastation from natural disasters.

In Jamaica’s case, the additional resources will help combat rising crime levels. It’s not the first time Jamaica has gone this route – the same thing happened in January 2018. This latest state of emergency was declared last week.

The real impact for the travel industry will come if Canadian travellers get skittish now that the Canadian government is advising travellers to Jamaica to exercise a high level of caution.

WHAT TOUR OPS & TRAVEL AGENTS ARE SAYING

Travelweek reached out to tour operators and travel agents for their feedback.

“No changes at all to our [Jamaica] program in light of the announcement,” Nino Montagnese, VP, Air Canada Vacations, told Travelweek.

“It really is business as usual and as you stated this is to free up funds to ensure all is safe in destination. I would advise travel advisors to continue to sell Jamaica with confidence knowing their customers’ safety is top priority,” said Montagnese.

Bernard Côté, Director, Marketing, Public Relations and Social Media, Transat, says nothing has changed on Transat’s end either, regarding Jamaica. He added: “As always, we encourage our travellers to be cautious when visiting another country and to respect the recommendations of local authorities.”

We also checked in with two of the destination’s top-selling travel advisors: Lois Barbour with Travel Time Agency, and Kim Hartlen with Kim Hartlen Travel – TPI.

Hartlen says she has clients travelling to Jamaica over the holidays. “Not sure what I will advise as I will need to get more details from my supplier partners,” she said, adding, “I have not had any calls on this yet but I am sure I will.”

Barbour says: “Yes, this announcement in Jamaica is not anything new. We have seen this several times before, and for the same reasons. However, every time it is announced and in the news there will be some travellers that are not aware it has been the case in the past, or even that currently the same level advisory is in place for multiple destinations. As a result there are questions, and yes even cancellations that have come through, for dates as far away as March! Even if we do not feel that is necessary, it is always the traveller’s decision to travel or not, and it is about their comfort levels, not mine. Travelling is a privilege and never without any risks, so everyone gets to weigh these options for themselves. I feel it is my duty to tell them the facts and they get to decide about their travel plans. In the meantime, I am looking forward to my trip to Jamaica this week!”

A MESSAGE FROM THE JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD

Travelweek also connected with Angella Bennett, Regional Director, Canada and the Jamaica Tourist Board, who answered our questions, and also sent through a statement from Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett.

Travelweek: What is your message to anyone having second thoughts about booking Jamaica? 

Bennett: “Jamaica remains a safe and secure vacation destination for Canadian travellers. In order to protect Jamaica’s law-abiding citizens, proactive crime-fighting measures have been introduced in concentrated areas within communities that are not typically frequented by tourists. The vast majority of the island is not impacted and visitors can continue to have a wonderful vacation in Jamaica this winter season.”

Travelweek: Should travellers anticipate any disruption to their travel plans? 

Bennett: “The enhanced security measures on the island will in no way prevent travellers from enjoying the country’s many tourism experiences and attractions. All businesses and activities will function as normal, including all airports, cruise ports, hotels, attractions, and tours. Jamaica remains on track to welcome three million visitors by the end of 2023.”

Here’s the statement from the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism for Jamaica:

“I would like to reassure visitors that Jamaica remains a safe destination. The enhanced security measures being implemented are a deliberate strategy by our government to take proactive steps to maintain a safe and secure Jamaica for all law-abiding citizens and tourists. These enhanced measures apply to limited areas in Jamaica and the vast majority of the island’s resort areas are not impacted,” says Bartlett.

“Jamaica remains a safe place for travellers and the statistics reflect this fact. Jamaica’s overall crime rate in respect to crimes against tourists is very low at just 0.002% (Jamaica Constabulary Force, 2022). Visitors can continue to come to our island with confidence and enjoy all that the destination has to offer,” he added.