Crime and tourism form a toxic mix when it comes to the Caribbean. In the absence of visitors’ ability to feel safe, tourist revenues tend to drop as though tied to an anvil. It has been estimated that for much of the region, tourism accounts for an estimated 50 percent of the economy, and up to 90 percent on smaller islands. Tourist-generated revenues represent the largest foreign exchange earner for the region and employs more than 1 million workers in the hospitality sector. Following some well-publicized attacks against tourists – among the most notable, the 2008 murder involving a honeymooning couple in Antigua — many island governments face the daunting challenge of convincing potential travelers that there is no reason to fear for their safety. Such efforts have had varying degrees of success. Reportedly, armed robbers in the Bahamas have targeted cruise ship visitors, and travel advisories have been issued for Trinidad and Tobago because of sexual assaults and physical harm sustained By tourists and foreign residents, to cite two examples. However, Jamaica, commonly known as one of the most violent countries in the Western Hemisphere, continues to pull in tourists despite a staggering murder rate. The island nation suffered through 1,680 murders last year, a dubious domestic record. After a down year in 2009, some prognosticators are actually projecting a better year for the Caribbean tourist industry, but are island governments as well prepared as they should be to declare an effective war on crime? That is an open question that needs to be answered in short order, and decisively. The Barbados and Eastern Caribbean 2008 Crime & Safety Report generated By the OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Dept. of State) painted a desultory picture. In part, the report stated: “In comparison to large metropolitan police departments in the United States, Eastern Caribbean police forces lack vigor, they suffer from a lack of resources and training, and are inconsistent in the level and quality of services provided to the general public and tourism sectors. This is not to suggest that police commissioners and senior police administrators lack education and experience, quite the contrary. It is, however, accurate to say that almost all Eastern Caribbean police forces are under-funded, under-staffed, and ill equipped to meet the growing challenges of the post-9/11 world.” Despite the sentiments expressed in the report governments are not standing pat, as they are understandably loath to see tourism dollars fly out of the window. A recent report indicated that St. Lucia is receiving international assistance in fighting crime from both Taiwan and Britain. According to the St. Lucian Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security, law enforcement personnel has received five new patrol vehicles from Taiwan while Britain is providing training to local police in operating CCTV cameras, to be received By the end of the year. Some Caribbean islands are profiting from the crime-related woes of others. For example, because of the January murder of a 30-year-old American woman near a popular tourist area, Antigua has been taken off of the cruise ship route for Star Clippers cruises. Five ships that were scheduled to dock in Antigua will instead travel to Nevis. Carnival Cruise Lines also removed Antigua from its Caribbean schedule in January after some passengers were involved in an altercation with local police. So, overall the effects of crime in the Caribbean are not uniform and each government has its unique challenges to face. If 2010 does live up to its billing and is a more lucrative one than the previous year, then perhaps there will be more incentive to pour more resources in ‘solving’ the problem. Lots of revenue is at stake, so hopefully the right moves will be made.
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