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14 Feb 2018

BY Pippa Jacks


Leader: States of emergency

When you hear that a “state of emergency” has been enforced in a holiday destination, it’s hard not to imagine fearful tourists holed up in their hotel rooms, with violent chaos unfolding outside.

Pippa Jacks Leader

But as we’ve seen with Jamaica over the past three weeks, the term often conveys a level of danger that is at odds with what holidaymakers on the ground actually experience.

New heightened security measures were brought in unexpectedly in the parish of St James on January 18, but local people overwhelmingly welcomed the move, to make their communities safer. The police and military made 200 arrests within the first few days of the operation.

All of this took place far away from the tourist area of Montego Bay, and yet the Foreign Office (FCO) advised holidaymakers not to stray outside their hotel. Happily for Jamaica, the FCO softened its advice last week, and no longer tells tourists not to leave their Mo’Bay resorts. But with the state of emergency in place until May 2, misconceptions could still abound. So we’ve teamed up with Jamaica Tourist Board to offer UK agents the chance to fly out to the island next month to see for themselves that Mo’Bay is giving tourists as warm a welcome as ever.

Our editor Sophie, meanwhile, has this week accompanied the very first charter flight back into Tunisia – which has just extended its own state of emergency – along with hundreds of Thomas Cook customers keen to get straight back into the country as soon as the FCO allowed it.

We all recognise the vital role the FCO plays in safeguarding travellers overseas, but so often it takes stances and uses phrasing that cause huge frustration and disproportionate caution. Supporting places like Jamaica and Tunisia at the critical moment, by painting an accurate picture of the situation on the ground, is one way the travel trade can ensure destinations don’t suffer more than they need to.

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