Tourism Thrives in Jamaica Despite Violence, Officials Say


Published May 25, 2010


Tourism in Jamaica continues to flourish despite drug-fueled violence that is ravaging the island nation's capital city, officials told

John Lynch, director of the Jamaican Tourism Board, said the violence that has left as many as 30 dead in Kingston had "not yet" affected bookings in the country's four main resort areas: Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio.

"Currently, our hotels are pretty full," Lynch told from the tourism board's Miami office. "The incidents are happening in and around Kingston. But it's going to affect business if it continues."

Kingston, which is on Jamaica's southeastern coast, is 52 miles and 112 miles away, respectively, from Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, the popular tourist destinations on the country's northern coast. 

Lynch said the upcoming Memorial Day weekend had padded already high booking rates in Jamaica, but acknowledged that some offices have been receiving calls since the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert to Kingston and the surrounding areas on Monday.

"We are getting calls," Lynch said. "Some people are going to cancel, some people are going to book. We're trying to settle it as quickly as possible to get back to our business. Tourism is very important to Jamaica."

Roughly one-quarter of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is generated by tourism, Lynch said, and roughly 1.8 million tourists visited the island last year, two-thirds of whom were from the United States. Jamaica's GDP was $23 billion, according to the CIA World Fact Book.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston told that she was not aware of unrest outside of Kingston and its surrounding areas.

"But it's a very, very fluid situation down here and things can change," said the official, who requested anonymity. "Things are pretty dodgy down here in Kingston."

Embassy officials had not received reports as of late Tuesday of increased security at the island's tony resorts.

Meanwhile, cruise giant Carnival has said it plans to continue service to Jamaica as scheduled.

"The disturbances in Jamaica and associated state of emergency are focused in Kingston," the company said in a statement. "Carnival’s ships visit Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, both of which are located on the opposite side of the country and are not experiencing any issues.  Visits to these ports currently remain as scheduled. Nonetheless, we are monitoring the situation closely."