Jamaica prime minister, Andrew Holness, has welcome the support of tourism stakeholders in St. James after the government rolled-out a series of increased security measures to curb crime in the area.
The move has led some to question the safety of tourists in the popular Montego Bay resorts.
“Several stakeholders, including those in the tourism industry, have written to me to say that they would support the necessary actions to bring the parish of St. James under control and restore public safety,” said Holness.
The prime minister was responding to a question during a press conference where he announced that a state of public emergency has been declared for the parish.
Holness said all members of the tourism fraternity can be assured that the security forces will act in a way that will be a credit to the destination.
He said the government factored tourism and other interests before the declaration of the state of emergency.
“The government has been contemplating this action for some time.
“This is not an action that can be taken in an arbitrary way.
“It requires a great deal of planning and it is not just an action for show.
“It is an action where we have to plan out both the opening and the ending game, and that kind of planning takes time, but, more importantly, it takes resources to be behind it.
“I believe that we are at the point where the actions are now aligned with resources,” he said.
Holness said while some persons may have felt that the declaration of the area may have taken some time, “all the variables are now in alignment for a successful operation”.
The Jamaican constitution provides that a period of public emergency can be declared by proclamation if the governor-general is satisfied that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger public safety.
It means that extraordinary powers have been given to the security forces, some rights have been suspended, and members of the security forces may search places without a warrant.
Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett added: “These enhanced security measures are not out of the ordinary in international tourism markets and therefore would be understood by visitors and welcomed by residents.
“All members of the tourism fraternity have given their full support to the measure and are feeling that these actions are welcome to ensure the safety of Jamaica’s guests and citizens.”
Bartlett added that tourism revenues are vital to the island.
He explained: “We made history in Jamaica when we welcomed 4.3 million visitors to the island in 2017.
“The sector also generated approximately US$3 billion in earnings, representing an 11.2 per cent increase over 2016.
“We cannot afford to reverse the gains we have made and continue to make.
“This is why it is so important to curb the vexing issue of visitor harassment, so that our thriving tourism sector can experience further expansion.”