Ja. tourism industry could suffer

The Jamaican Tourist Board has said
that despite ongoing troubles in Kingston the tourism industry is currently
remaining strong, but worldwide negative headlines are bringing the wrong kind
of publicity.

Director of the tourist board, John
Lynch, noted that there were less cancellations than anticipated, some of which
is due to the fact that Kingston is the least popular destination for tourists.

He said that people were having a
great time in places like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril which were not affected
by the violence sweeping the capital. Mr. Lynch said that hotels in other areas
were full but acknowledged that the perception of Jamaica was paramount and
tourism was a crucial industry for the country.


However, the United States has
advised travellers to avoid Kingston because of the unrest. According to
Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association president Wayne Cummings, international
headlines are bringing Jamaica fame for the wrong reasons. In the light of what
he described as ‘taking a beating in the international marketplace’ he
explained that overseas advertising had stopped. This is because the sheer
amount of downbeat stories about Jamaica would swamp any promotional effort.

Mr. Cummings added that it would be
throwing away money to do so and that the hotel association had been working
with travel agencies to clarify the actual situation in Kingston. The president
of the private sector lobbying body explained that although the problems in the
capital would have an inevitable knock-on effect on earnings in tourism and
other sectors, it would not be catastrophic providing the unrest was not

“Only if there are significant
continuous security action in some areas will we see that, 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.

“We are not saying that tourism
interests should overshadow the national security issue. The tourism industry
can be fixed,” he added.

Flight cancellations

Cruise companies have said that
they will continue to visit Jamaica. Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival will continue
their scheduled visits to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, said the companies,
because both ports are on the north coast and are a considerable distance from
the unrest which is currently localised in Kingston.

Sangster International Airport in
Montego Bay was reporting no cancelled flights Friday but Norman Manley International
in Kingston had suffered several cancellations or rescheduled flights in and
out of the airport. This included Cayman Airways, whose Flight 606 to Kingston
and 607 from Kingston were operating at 4.30pm and 6.15pm over the weekend of
27 to 30 may rather than their original schedules of 6.50pm and 8.45pm respectively.
The national airline also said it would waive any change fees on this route up
to the end of May, and they advised passengers to visit the website or call the
reservation line on 949-8200 for latest information.