Jamaica’s tourism product is taking a hit as a national newspaper in America, USA Today, is reporting that the island’s tourism sector is facing a ‘historic’ sexual assault problem.
According to the article published on Tuesday, there have been several sexual assaults perpetrated by hotel employees inside the gated resorts.
The USA Today says the US State Department has repeatedly warned its citizens about a pervasive sexual assault problem in Jamaica.
It says 12 Americans were raped in the country last year, half of them inside resorts by hotel employees.
The report follows an incident at the Riu Hotel in St. James last month.
In that incident, two female tourists were allegedly raped by an entertainment coordinator at the resort.
Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett had responded by ordering an intensive security audit of the sector including hotels and attractions.
Last year over 1.5-million US citizens visited Jamaica. But while the Jamaican tourism sector expands, so too have warnings from the US State Department about sexual violence here.
USA Today says 78 US citizens have been raped in Jamaica, over the past seven years.
It says among the victims are:
A mentally-challenged woman.
A mother who was allegedly gang raped by three Cuban soccer players in a hotel bathroom.
A teenager and her 21-year-old friend, who were reportedly attacked by lifeguards in a laundry room at a resort.
It says the actual number of sexual assaults may be higher because such incidents are often under-reported.
It says in January last year the US State Department issued the following warning to tourists…quote:
“Exercise increase caution in Jamaica. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents…end quote”. And, that wasn’t the first time.
It says Jamaica’s tourism industry is well aware of the sexual assault concerns. But, the US-based media outlet says Jamaica is failing to address them.
Last year a contributor to the widely respected business magazine, Forbes, ranked Jamaica the third most dangerous place for female travellers.
The top ten ranking listed Egypt as the most dangerous, with Peru second. Some victims of sexual assault in resorts in Jamaica, say the Police were helpful. But many of them say the management at the resorts were dismissive.
Following the alleged rape incident at the RIU Hotel in St. James, last month, the resort defended it’s hiring practices.
The suspect– 24-year-old Demar Scott, was a dancer and entertainment coordinator. But he was also wanted by police for other crimes.
The resort said Scott had been recommended by a Justice of the Peace.
In the meantime, the US Embassy has also warned visitors that sexual assaults usually occur on the last night of their stay. This, as perpetrators know when guests are leaving and assume they won’t bother to pursue an investigation.
In meantime, the Tourism Ministry is seeking to assure visitors that Jamaica is committed to maintaining a safe, secure and seamless destination.
Senior Strategist in the Ministry of Tourism Delano Seiveright spoke with Nationwide News.
The Ministry says the country prides itself on being hospitable to the over 20 million tourists who have visited Jamaica over the past seven years.
The Tourism Ministry also noted that Jamaica has what it calls a ‘world-leading’ repeat visitor rate of 42 per cent with an extremely low rate of crime against visitors.