Despite the latest political instability and surging crime rates, which have led the Government to instate a State of Emergency, Jamaica continues to break tourism records, and it is now on track to attain an 11 percent growth in 2023. Seeing that the U.S. is the strongest market for foreign visitors, we can infer Americans are not particularly worried about security risks vacationing on the island — but why?
How Bad Is The Situation In Jamaica Right Now?
In recent months, Jamaica has been rocked to its core by a mass wave of violence fueled by an increase in gang activity, especially in areas where police presence is limited and the establishment of paramilitary groups could not be curbed. Instability is so high that in late 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a State of Emergency (SOE) in nine out of 14 parishes.
That is roughly 64% of the country, and even touristy spots like Saint James, where the popular resort town of Montego Bay is located, were not spared. What’s more worrying is that the extreme measure, which leads to a rise in police raids and subsequently intercommunity violence, had been enforced by Holness before — a number of times.
The latest SOE was, in fact, merely an extension of an already-existing one, proving Jamaica has been facing social disorder for months on end. As the Chairman of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission reminded attendees at one of his lectures, Jamaica has both the highest rates of homicide and genocide in the world.
While in the latter case, he’s referred specifically to Jamaica’s gruesome past of slavery, the data on homicide is current and pretty alarming. Between 2019 and 2021, it topped the regional murder charts in the Caribbean, and despite a slight improvement in safety in 2022, the number of killings was still impossibly high.
In total, 1,498 murders were recorded, putting Jamaica’s homicide rate at approximately 53 per 100,000, the highest since 2017. As InsightCrime reports, the SEOs have done little to reverse the trend. So how come crime-stricken Jamaica has rebounded so strongly, and why are very few Americans actually concerned about the latest developments?
Most Visits Are Trouble-Free
The answer lies in Jamaica’s well-developed, and dare we say, heavily protected leisure complexes. Modern-day versions of fortified castles, these structures are what we like to call cities within a city. They present guests with an entirely different reality than that on the ground, from ultra-luxurious amenities to exclusive beach access.
The vast majority of Americans traveling to Jamaica seek one thing, and one thing only: a do-nothing vacation in a coastal paradise — preferably all-inclusive. They have little, if any, interest in exploring off-path areas of Jamaica where civil war is rampant. Jamaica is, after all, primarily a beach destination, and incidents taking place inside resorts are rare.
The world-class service offered at Jamaica’s upscale hotels, particularly in Montego Bay, is also part of the reason why it is still a leader in bookings, with famous resorts like the Half Moon, Secrets St. James, Deja, and the Sandals Royal Caribbean being acknowledged for their impressive list of amenities and even architecture.
On top of that, Jamaica is one of the most highly sought-after Caribbean nations, home to stunning nature, comprising lush green hills, tropical jungles and a sandy coastline, and turquoise waters, making it a hotspot for sun-seekers. In recent years, cultural tourism in Jamaica has increased as well due to its colonial architecture and History under British imperialism.
Lastly, the country has lifted all of its COVID entry requirements after two and a half years of enforcing strict health checks at the border, allowing American tourists in irrespective of vaccination status and without any further documentation. The increased seat capacity and low-cost flight options have contributed to a surge in demand, too.
With that being said, Jamaica’s strongest offer is its beachfront resorts, and it excels at being a wellness center. Projections point to a record increase in tourism in 2023, as the island’s primary markets, namely the U.S. and Canada, register growths of 7% and 38.7%, respectively. There is now a ‘high possibility’ of a full recovery a year earlier than expected.
Seeing that tourists in Jamaica are almost exclusively hoping to catch a tan while relaxing at an exclusive beach, most visits are trouble-free. That’s not to say risks are non-existent, taking into account a British man was gunned down in the villa he rented close to Montego Bay earlier this year, but these unfortunate events are the exception rather than the rule and are often a result of ‘contract killings‘.
What Is The Official Travel Advice?
Jamaica is a Level 3 destination.
Officially, Americans should ‘reconsider travel’ to Jamaica due to the high prevalence of urban violence, at least according to the U.S. Department of State, but unless involved with organized crime or staying outside resort complexes in non-touristy areas, they should have nothing to worry about, which is why Jamaica’s popularity remains at an all-time high in 2023.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com