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Island tourist destinations respond to recent U.S. travel warnings citing high crime

by Staff

The governments of Jamaica and the Bahamas responded recently to travel advisories from the U.S. State Department that warned Americans of a high amount of violent crime occurring in both countries.

“Not withstanding the advisory, Jamaica remains not only a desirable destination but a safe and secure destination for international visitors,” Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister for the country, told the Miami Herald. “Sometimes, the unintended consequences of policies is they cause great harm and damage to the stability and safety of other countries.”

The U.S. State Department released two travel advisories a few days apart for both Jamaica and The Bahamas. The Jamaica warning, issued on Jan. 23, said that travelers should rethink going to the country due to high crime and a lack of adequate medical services.

The Level 3 advisory said that “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common” in the country, and that “sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.”

Then, on Jan. 26, the State Department sent out a Level 2 advisory for the Bahamas saying that the country is dangerous for tourists due to the high level of crime, especially in the capital city of Nassau.

“Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets,” the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said in a separate statement, noting that 18 murders have taken place in the capital since the beginning of the year.

In response, the Jamaica Tourist Board said that the crime rate against visitors is “extremely low” at 0.01%. The board also said that homicides are trending downward in the country and that 42% of its tourists are returning visitors.

“We are aware of instances regarding U.S. citizen victims of violent crime, but are unable to comment on this further due to privacy considerations,” Bartlett said.

“We are committed to working on our areas of imperfection and to ensure that where we see weaknesses like in some of the areas indicated, as our economy improves, and our resources allow, we will solve all our health and social problems,” he added.

In a separate statement, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said that the Level 2 advisory does not “reflect general safety in the Bahamas, a country of 16 tourism destinations, and many more islands.”

“The government of the Bahamas is implementing a robust and innovative crime reduction and prevention strategy. This comprehensive approach is informed by the latest research and successful international models, focusing on five key pillars: prevention, detection, prosecution, punishment, and rehabilitation,” the statement, according to Travel Weekly, said.

There have been two additional homicides in the Bahamas since the travel advisory was issued, the Miami Herald said, as well as two separate incidents of sexual assaults against two people visiting the country, a 30-year-old Mexican woman and an 81-year-old Canadian woman.

Over 4.1 million people visited Jamaica in 2023 while nine million people visited the Bahamas, according to Travel Weekly.

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