Kingston shoot-outs hurting tourism

This cannot be destroyed

PROMOTIONAL activities for Jamaica’s tourism product in the international marketplace has ceased given the sustained attention being placed by the local and international media on the unrest in sections of Kingston and St Catherine. This was revealed by Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA) President Wayne Cummings.

“We are taking a beating in the international marketplace, both from the front-page headlines there and in Jamaica. They have been bringing Jamaica a lot of fame and all for the wrong reasons,” Cumming said.

He also told the Caribbean Business Report that at the moment all advertising and promotional activities for Jamaica in the overseas marketplace has ceased because the intensity of the negative publicity would undermine all efforts of promotion.

“We are not advertising right now because we would be throwing away money,” he said. He added that the tourism industry will have to come up with “millions of US dollars” to counter the negative effects of the unrest when the glare subsides.

In response, Cummings said the JHTA has been working with the travel agencies to provide accurate information on the activities locally so that rife speculation can be reduced, said Cummings.

He said so far the industry has seen “quite a bit” of cancellations while other visitors have opted to change their date of travel to Jamaica. There is a ray of hope in the latter move, reasoned Cummings because at least there is the perception that things are going to improve here in Jamaica.

Cummings said on Tuesday alone he was told of between 300 to 350 cancellations, just from his “unscientific” calls to some members. “That is a significant loss,” he said. “What is unquantifiable is how much we have lost in terms of people who were still in the deciding mode about where to go,” Cummings said. “I am more concerned about what I don’t know than what I do know.”

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) last week released the results of its quarterly economic survey, which suggested that for the months January to March 2010, tourism was one of the top two performers in the econony. Hotels and restaurants grew six per cent, arrivals, 0.9 per cent, and stopovers 8.6 per cent, while cruise passengers declined 11 per cent. However, Cummings said that the effect the unrest would have on the overall records in the current quarter is still unknown.

“We have had a strong April and a strong May and we have been a point ahead on arrivals,” he said. “I don’t know how it is going to end”.

He said however that the fallout in earnings from the unrest that is now gripping Jamaica would be “continuous and comprehensive”, given the contagion effect a reduction in tourism would have on other sectors. It is expected to not only affect the hotel reservations but other industries that rely on tourism for earnings including the food and beverages, manufacturing, garment and construction industries as well as other trading activities that take place in the hotels.

Nonetheless Cummings said the fallout should not be a ‘catastrophe’ if it is contained over a relatively short time frame.”Only if there are significant continuous security action in some areas will we see that,” he said. “But we are not calling on our security forces to withdraw. This is a once in a lifetime action to set the pace for engaging our people and restoring law and order,” Cummings said. “We are not saying that tourism interests should overshadow the national security issue. The tourism industry can be fixed.”

He said there have been many studies that have shown that Jamaica has lost much of its GDP because of the problem of crime, some studies suggesting as much as a four per cent loss per year, Cummings said. “Four points in GDP in the context of our country is very significant,” Cummings said.

He reiterated support for the security forces and the “strong and decisive action” that has been taken to deal with criminality. “We called for the action. Now that we are getting the action we are not going to resile from the fact that we called for it,” he said. “I think we are really at a turning point in our country,” Cummings said.

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