TOURISM: An uptick in violence, what if the planes stop landing

Commentary: An uptick in violence, what if the planes stop landing on these shores?

March 6, 2018 – By Derrick Miller – Caribbean News Now

Tourism is largest of modern industries, and a multi-billion-dollar business for many countries according to the World Tourism Organization.

It is major turning point of these economies and one of the top five sources of income, and a driver of major development.            

I do not consider myself an expert of the Caribbean tourist industry. However, quietly, I may be an unofficial tour guide from recommendation for weddings, vacations to trips planned for spring breaks during my college years and beyond.

I even asked few local store managers on several global travels to consider stocking some Caribbean products in their local stores, to encouraging expatriates who may have written off parts of the islands for personal reasons to reconsider a trip.

However, recently, I began to wonder; if asked where to go, can I really recommend a few of these shores as I have done earlier for decades?

In every country there is some level of crime committed by deeply troubled people and, why this monstrosity seems to be happening in places that should be considered safe remain a major question.

What we know is that these crimes have become global news, and it highlights a danger and fundamental safety concerns in recent upticks in violence for tourists and locals in general.  2018 so far has been in focus as rampant crime waves emerge out of Jamaica, and a few other troubled islands.

Officials from the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom have issued travel warnings for parts of Montego Bay and Kingston in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and areas in Latin America.

In Mexico, especially Cancun, reports have shown occupancy tumbled by upwards of ten percent and over 30,000 hotels and flights cancelled by vacationers.

If these airplanes begin to change routes in higher numbers due to an uptick in crime and safety concerns, as tourists are being told not to leave their resorts; several mom and pop stores (bodegas) out of the protected tourist zones will all suffer in these service economies.

Even if some of these crimes are petty, many locals too must balance that environment after work despite their welcome smile, disguising beneath the local pains.

Some argue that these crimes are over-blown globally, but paradise is now being seen like a war-torn region, with civil war that often leads to political instability.

Reinforcing security is better than comparing local issues to other countries’ issues; or a few YouTube videos of visitors and celebrities who arrived and rushed to a private villa under high security do not capture the local issues.

Although many tourist boards, including Jamaica, have done an excellent job in keeping these islands a place to visit, it is time to have a serious conversation about the weapons now being used.

Tourist Minister Edmund Bartlett predicted that, in 2018, Jamaica expected to see its biggest increase in the tourist industry, according to the Gleaner.

What is not being said is how many flights have been changed or cancelled.

Some have argued that, despite the influx of people to these shores, only few a benefit.

The other side of the silent debate: Do you blame investors who pumped billions of dollars in these resorts to risk it all from senseless violence?

It has now been reported that a few weapons found locally are ones often used on a war battlefield.

Law enforcement alone cannot take back these communities and, despite state of emergencies that are targeting high crime areas, global and potential visitors are taking notice.

For decades planning a trip to some of these shores was simple. Many scanned a magazine, read a few reviews for the best deals and beaches as an overall value for their money. Today, travel guides can be had from an evening news or internet post of ongoing killings and unresolved crimes.

Tourism, according to its definition, is to relax, appease curiosity, sightsee and, overall, an adventure.

For others, it is simple reconnecting with family members in making sure their roots do not get lost, but crime and safety concerns can erode and cause cultural alienation.

These crimes seem to be committed by a younger generation with no solution for these barbaric ideologies.

Is it a penetration of organized crime, drugs, and weapons, decades of economic hardship and distrust, easier access to weapons, and a declining moral compass that have created a vulture mentality that targets the vulnerable?

Sure, crime is everywhere. However, ten people murdered in a major US city will have less of an economic impact than one on a beach in The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica or Trinidad.

Although no one can predict when someone will become violence, nor should the entire country be cast under one umbrella from the actions of a few and or self-inflected wounds, but it spells danger in paradise.

The killing of a businessperson who runs a local Western Union, an expatriate, or missionary helping others, the community loses an internet café, a restaurant, a supply store or much needed support for the poor.

There are still difficulties by law enforcement working to solve many crimes and, given the low success rate in finding these criminals, it seems that one is more than likely to drop a note in a bottle in the middle of the ocean and find it yourself few decades later.

This pattern of behaviour is only getting worse, from the reports, and the only solution is to become more isolated for those who can afford to move into a gated community.

There is now discussion of bringing back past commissioners, some of whom human right watch groups have questioned concerning their strategy, but would that change anything?

This is delicate balance, and I am not sure how much more these families can take from the senseless killings.

We are now seeing these criminal waves, such as a once quiet country like Barbados finding itself worrying about an uptick in violence.

The Trinidad Express also files reports of the alarming surge in violent crime.

Recently, pop star Rihanna, one of Barbados’ most famous daughters, mourned her 21-year-old cousin shot dead during the 2017 Christmas holiday.

And despite an overall drop in crime rate, reports have shown that targeting of visitors remains a problem across many of these islands.

These crimes not only divert planes, but wonderful homes for sale advertised as safer gated communities stay on the market for a long time.

Maybe my flight today cost more because one passenger cancelled.

If the emphasis seems to be on who will be coming, importantly, there will be a gap for those who need investments in local rural communities in agriculture and other local businesses.

From The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, parts of Latin America to Trinidad and beyond, having a full flight of visitors to your shore is as important to make sure locals have a safe commute to and from work and a path to economic prosperity beyond the shores while protecting the vulnerable and victims.

In the end, they will come back because everyone will be part of the community

Derrick Miller has over 16 years in law enforcement and public safety. His consulting and youth advocacy work includes; community safety, victims support, treatment, team building, personal development, and leadership. He holds a BS, MBA, and MS degree that covers economics, criminal justice, leadership, and management. He may be contacted at http://www.crijc.org/

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