DEPUTY MAYOR of Montego Bay Richard Vernon is disappointed that a travel advisory has again been issued for Jamaica by the United States Department of State, to its citizens travelling to the Caribbean island, because of the high crime rate.
The State Department regularly assesses risks for Americans abroad and had previously issued travel advisories for Jamaica, but reissued them with new updates. Vernon was speaking following the inaugural flight of Frontier Airlines non-stop services to Montego Bay from Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas on Monday morning.
“I am a little bit disheartened because, regardless of us getting these new flights, regardless of us putting the work in, we have been listed once more. We have been given this travel advisory despite the efforts of the Government to put the necessary measures in place to contain the monster of crime,” Vernon said.
Montego Bay, he said, is the best destination in the Caribbean, as tourism accounts for 30 per cent of GDP and 30 per cent of the employment in the service sector, and probably overall in Jamaica. “We have to protect tourism, and in protecting tourism, we have to ensure that the matter of crime is not one where we have to spend all our resources. The people should be in a position where they are cooperating, and we are protecting ourselves by protecting the economy and protecting the industry of tourism,” Vernon said.
Noting the recent declaration of the state of public emergency, Vernon said while the gangsters have seemingly put Montego Bay at a standstill, we need to do better as a people. Nevertheless, he indicated that they were still happy that they had the opportunity to get business, and he looked forward to more persons being employed in the tourism sector.
“We look forward to ensuring that we can get more persons employed in the tourism sector, especially now that we have free access to HEART, all the way up to level four. We want to increase the pool of skilled workers that we have in Jamaica, and at the same time, I will urge the members in the service sector and in the tourism industry to consider the fact that the government has also issued a base for minimum wage. It is a base, not a cap, and therefore more people in the tourism sector can pay more and facilitate more,” Vernon said.
Citing the number of persons who work in these areas that are employed in the hospitality industry, and who reside in many of these volatile communities, he indicated that there is no excuse for crime, given the many opportunities in the industry.
“We have very good people working and living in these areas, and we hope that by increasing the pool of skilled workers via the HEART, that these idle hands will find more work to do. There is a way out of poverty, and poverty is no excuse for crime,” Vernon said.
Meanwhile, Nadine Spence, chair of the Montego Bay Chapter of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said despite the travel advisories issued over the years, visitors are informed and know how to handle themselves if faced with any danger.
“They understand that things happen in and around the world, and in almost every country there is some heightened information as it relates to security. So, they know how to pivot around the world when they do travel and Jamaica, even though we are under the SOE right now, crime against the tourists is less than one per cent,” Spence said.
“We are informed, and we understand how to take care of our visitors. So, at this time it is of concern, but at the same time, we are happy that it has not caused any significant dent into what has been a robust activity, or economy, as it relates to tourism since COVID,” she added.
The inaugural flight to Jamaica is the 10th destination for Frontier Airlines in recent months, including non-stops to Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and now Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Frontier Airlines has been one which stood with us throughout COVID. They never hesitated, and they seized the opportunity to understand that this is a destination that can create much opportunities for everyone, and today is no different,” Spence said.
“We are truly excited for this added gate opening. I know that things are happening in and around Jamaica, but we are still seeing a very robust economy. The people continue to come, everybody’s playing their part as it relates to safety, security, enjoyment, attraction; everything that has to do with the product in and of itself,” she added.
Frontier Airlines is focused on more than low fares. The carrier offers customers the ability to customise travel to their needs and budget. For example, customers can purchase options a la carte or in one low-priced bundle called the WORKS. This bundle includes refundability, a carry-on bag, a checked bag, the best available seat, waived change fees, and priority boarding.
“Our recent growth in Jamaica is unparalleled,” said Daniel Shurz, senior vice-president at Frontier Airlines. “From Kingston to Montego Bay, Jamaicans can connect to various US locations. Our expansion also offers a boost to the island’s vibrant tourism industry. We are thrilled to provide an opportunity for more people to enjoy this tropical paradise.”
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