The Canadian government is warning Canadians planning to visit the popular tourist area of Montego Bay to “exercise a high degree of caution” in the area because of a spike in violent crime and a subsequent state of emergency Jamaican officials have imposed to try to staunch that violence.
The Jamaican government has deployed soldiers into St. James Parish communities as it tries to quell an upsurge in violence, with the parish last year seeing twice as many killings as any other parish in the country. One Jamaican government official said the government would be “relentless” as it pursued area criminals, including gang members.
Ottawa’s advisory urged Canadians in the area to be cautious.
“If you are staying at a resort in the affected area, restrict your movements beyond resort security perimeters. If you do travel outside these perimeters, use transportation arranged or provided by the resort. Use organized tour operators for excursions and travel to and from the airport. If you are in the affected area, be extremely vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local news,” it said.
Sunwing operating as scheduled
Meanwhile, Sunwing reports its Jamaica program is operating as scheduled in the wake of Ottawa’s warning.
There was no immediate word on when the state of emergency, which grants the Jamaican government “extraordinary powers” to combat crime, would be lifted.
“We would like reassure passengers that all of our flights, cruise and vacation packages are operating as scheduled,” Sunwing said in a Friday statement. “We are in close contact with our destination team, who have advised us that while tourists are being encouraged to exercise a degree of caution, all tours and excursions are operating normally and there are no restrictions on their movements. Over 95% of our customers choose all-inclusive resorts when they vacation in Jamaica, however we are extending flexible re-accommodation options to any customers booked in a self-catering hotel in St James Parish.
“Jamaica is consistently one of our most popular destinations and we send approximately 5,000 visitors through Montego Bay airport each week without related incident. Customer safety and security is our primary concern and we will continue to seek the advice of the Canadian government, local government, and our local representatives on this matter and adjust our policies if required.”
The state of emergency quickly drew worldwide attention to St. James Parish, with Britain’s Foreign Office advising British citizens vacationing in Jamaica that there will be “more intensive law enforcement activities in response to recent violence including shooting incidents. You should follow local advice, including restrictions in selected areas, and exercise particular care if travelling at night.
“Tourists should stay in their resorts and limit travel beyond their respective security perimeters,” it added.
The latest developments follow what Jamaican officials described as a strong tourism performance by their country in 2017.