Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Tue June 14 2016

Jamaica Tourism Minister Seeks To Eliminate Harassment

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | June 14, 2016

Jamaica Tourism Minister Seeks To Eliminate Harassment

PHOTO: Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister. (Photo by Brian Major)

Jamaican tourism officials are taking steps to confront what has been a persistent complaint among some travelers to the popular Caribbean destination: visitor harassment, most often in the form of aggressive hawking of souvenirs and services at areas frequented by tourists.

Following a May tour of the resort town of Ocho Rios, Edmund Bartlett, who took over earlier this year as the country’s tourism minister, said the government will tackle the issue of “badgering and harassment.”

In an interview on the government-run Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, Bartlett said “We have to be aware that not everybody wants to be followed around or to be made to feel like they are obligated to buy something they absolutely have no interest in.”

He continued, “I am going to have dialogue with all the attraction owners [and] all those who have to interact with the guests. We have to put the mechanisms in place where [visitors] feel safe and will want to come back.”

Bartlett said he was responding to “complaints from other guests and the cruise lines” which he called “cause for concern.” Government officials and tourism stakeholders have complained in recent years that Ocho Rios’ crumbling downtown infrastructure has contributed to negative perceptions among some visitors and harassment issues.

Although the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Pier and the surrounding area recently received a $400 million enhancement via the government’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Port Authority of Jamaica, Bartlett said the government will spend an additional $175 million in Ocho Rios “to make the resort town more marketable and attractive to cruise ship and stopover visitors.”

Bartlett said “phase two” of the enhancement will include promenade leading from the cruise ship pier into the town of Ocho Rios along with a new “street side cafes.”

“What we will have in Ocho Rios is a renewed experience,” he said. “It will have freshness and a crispness that will be very attractive to visitors over time.

“Whatever can be done to make this town cleaner and more beautiful will be welcomed,” said Shahine Robinson, Jamaica’s minister of labor and social security. “I have always maintained that if we can keep Ocho Rios attractive, if we can keep it harassment free.”

Despite harassment issues, Jamaica’s remains among the most popular Caribbean travel destinations. The country hosted 2.1 million visitors in 2015 and has recorded more than two million visitors in each of the past two years, with each year representing a record total.

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