Monday, March 19, 2012

Jamaica: Tourist and Local Harassment

Tourist Country - That part of Jamaica frequented by large numbers of foreign visitors and the annoying local people they attract like flies to excrement.

I will never defend those worthless individuals who leave their farms, work, school, family and homes behind to walk the streets of Tourist Country, trying to sell both themselves and drugs to every Tom and Jane tourist that set foot on the island.

Both the sellers and the buyers are the reason why I have a Self-Imposed Exile in place, in my own country. I will never stay willingly in Tourist Country and try very hard not to visit it or stay longer than I have to. I do not like what goes on between some local Jamaicans and some tourists and as such I have decided to leave unto Caesar the things that are for Caesar. I will go even further to say they are a perfect match for each other. It is not really that I do not like it because I am not a conservative nut and in fact I really do not care what takes place between two consenting adults in the company of adults.

However the main problem with the interaction between some locals and some tourist is when it all goes wrong. It is at that time when the foreign media and tourist have a tendency of painting everyone in Jamaica with the same brush. They never say some Jamaicans, they say Jamaicans are, as if the entire population spends their days outside, hotels, airports and piers waiting for the unsuspecting tourist to sell them stuff because most of us have a life that has nothing to do with tourism and want nothing to do with it.

Of late I have been reading various travelers review forums and media outlet and the number one complaint some of these tourist have with Jamaicans, is that the minute they step off the plane they are confronted by harassment from local Jamaicans. Constantly they are being asked to buy drugs or offers from local men and women selling their services as “tour guides” with benefits.

I often wonder what would drive local Jamaicans to behave like this, to think that selling themselves and drugs was a lucrative business. More lucrative than staying in school and getting an education, more lucrative than developing the farm, more lucrative than to stay at home and be fathers and mothers to their offspring. Could it be that the demand for their services from the types of tourist coming to the island is so great, that prostitution and drug selling is a lucrative business made profitable by the willing and eager tourist looking for sun, sand, weed and a rent-a-dread with the big bamboo?

If the demand was not there to begin with then there would not be a need to supply a product no one wants. I am going to be so bold and declare that 7 out of 10 visitors to the Jamaica's tourist hot spots are willing and eager participants in the market of drugs and rent-a-dread. Jamaica is known for some of the best weed in the world and many of our visitors come to Jamaica to enjoy this product. Some visitors to our shores have defined an authentic Jamaican vacation as one that includes smoking large quantity of weed and having sex with locals ...some NOT ALL. And I really have no problem with that, I am liberal when it comes to smoking weed and having sex. Smoke as much as you want and have as much sex as you want but when it goes wrong take personal responsibility and shut up. And I do wish Jamaicans would be more productive in other areas of life, which would have a lasting positive effect on the island other than this but to each his own.

When reading feedback on various travel sites you will always find several post on tourist harassment and various reports of women claiming they were taken advantage of. How they were promised love but all that these rent-a-dread wanted was money. Jamaican men are being described in some publications as predators, on the prowl looking for sweet innocent little white women to take advantage of. Stripping them of money and breaking their poor little hearts. Surely you cannot be that naive, that stupid to think you are going to enter the market place of rent-a-dread and drugs and come away with a lifelong loving partner, are you mad, stupid or both?

Some of the woman or man who hang out outside the hotels and bars that tourist frequent, offering themselves as “tour guides” are there to sell themselves to any fool who would have them and willing to pay for it. There are loads of legitimate travel grievances that I would agree with, from rude hotel staffs, to hotels not to your liking, terrible service, being asked over and over to buy the same stuff, to valuables stolen but having your heart crushed by an ambition-less Rent-a-Dread is not one of them.

When will you take personal responsibilities for your actions, my grandmother had a saying “Water always finds it own level” and that is exactly what is happening here. You are no different from these worthless men, both pathetic in your own way. Does the sun and sea have such an effect on your brain, suppressing the part that controls good decision making? You are not the innocent party in this transaction, you are the willing party but you like to portray yourselves as the innocent, poor little girl who was used and taken advantage of by those evil wicked disgusting natives. Talking about he said he loved me …What!!. “Hahahaha I laugh in your face”… yes you and everyone stupid enough to believe a man who sleeps with tourists for money. Trust me these men and women while at the airport departure lounge will put on an Oscar performance wiping tears from their eyes, looking up to the heavens, professing their undying love for you then the minute you are out of sight they walk over to arrivals for the next willing partner/buyer ...Not Victim.

With such a high rate of demand for love, sex and drugs it is then understandable why locals cannot tell the difference between a tourist looking for drugs and sex and those who just want to be left alone to enjoy their vacation in peace, soak up the environment, culture and people. If lets say 7 out of 10 times local sellers get a positive response and are financially rewarded then the odds are in their favour to walk about and harass honest visitors who wants to be left alone. I am not making any excuses for these scums of the earth, they are like warts on the backside of humanity but they are being rewarded. 

Spring Break is upon us again and those innocent young people from first world countries are not afraid to get naked, get drunk and perform public sex acts in front of minors at the drop of a hat. Spring Break and the Jamaican dancehall are two of the most disgusting things to take over Jamaica in recent times. It says more about us as Jamaicans, how low we will go to earn a dollar. The demand for Jamaican weed and the Rent-A-Dread will be at its highest during this period. Sellers from other slow tourist locations with flock to the big tourist country areas as they fight to keep up with demand from the spring breakers and to make the almighty Yankee dollar. As drunken vomiting spring breakers try to make this the Spring Break to remember.

What upsets me is that they come away from the experience with their reputation intact as it is not the buyer who gets negatively stigmatized, they get a pat on the back, wicked vacation but it is the locals who come away looking dirty in the eyes of the world, like trained monkeys performing with the world thinking those people will do almost anything for a dollar.

Falmouth was once a wonderful quaint little town until the pier, cruise ship and tourist arrived then like locus the hustlers descended on the town. Like roving band of bandits they turn up at various piers on the day the cruise ship arrive, trying to sell everything including themselves, the kitchen sink and their mothers.

The Economics of Tourism
There is a reason why countries like Jamaica only measure and report on Gross Earnings of the tourism sector or the number of stop over visitors and that is because it is embarrassing to measure Net Earnings and tourism contribution to the development of Jamaica. Having large Stop Over numbers mean nothing if the money generated is airlifted aka repatriated right back to the home country of the resort owners. Not to mention most of these large hotel chains pay little or no taxes, they exist in a tax free world and import all the resources they use free of cost. When it comes to tourism or foreign investments in general we enter into deals with the idea that a little something is better than nothing, every “mickle mek a muckle”. Former Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett recently said that “many tourism destinations are retaining as low as (7c) seven cents of every dollar tourists spend”, noting that much of the tourist dollar "goes back to where it came from".

He also pointed out that research has shown that only about 3% of the produce from the agricultural sector currently goes into tourism. Not only is profit from tourism being taken out of the country but the sector is also not supporting the other sectors such as agriculture.  The Bank of Jamaica declared that 78% of all earnings from Foreign Direct Investments is extracted from the country and goes back to the home country of the entity. The official STATIN figure show that tourism contributes 7.3% GDP contribution.

Normally when I travel to some other country I do not want to consume the things I am used to back home preferring instead to immerse myself in the culture of the country I am visiting. Eating what they eat, where they eat but not so for the people coming to Jamaica they want to leave their homeland and arrive at their home land and so the hotels must import and serve the food they are use to.

Some Typical Tourist Behaviour 
Most American tourist want what they normally eat at home, void of any imagination or spirit of adventure. They travel but some are geographically and culturally illiterate/ignorant.

The British are notorious for making a beeline for Little Britain the minute they land. Almost all popular British tourist destination have a little Britain because old colonial habits will not die for these people and the only locals they want around them are the ones cleaning up after them. Most of these people would be better of vacationing on a wet muddy caravan in Cornwall.

So bring on the Full English Breakfast served in a pub owned and run by a British person and frequent by British people. Give them the sun, sand and sea but keep your local food and culture. Now while American ignorance have an excuse, British ignorance is shocking. The British had a Multicultural and Multiracial Colonial Empire where Britain governed and in some parts still Govern and most countries still have the Queen as Head of State. So they have direct access to almost half the entire planet, to different culture and races but seem more ignorant than the Americans who had no such Empire.    

In Jamaica we import the food and we import the chef to cook it trying to recreate the dishes our visitors are use to. The average vacation is just over a week so I do not understand why they cannot do without the food they have been eating all their lives and enjoy a change, something different, are they that shallow?

Before I start jumping through hoops in order to service the tourist, I would first like factual information regarding real contribution of tourism to the Jamaican Economy and people. It is also because of the above fact “7 cents of every dollar” why I only vacation in “Jamaican owned hotels” and refuse to give my hard earn money to foreign entities that are making super profit at Jamaica’s expense and doing nothing to build this country of mine.

With regard to foreign investments, in order to attract these foreign corporations, governments are forced to provide economic perks such as; a tax-free existence, the free movement of all profits back to the home countries and the removal of the trade union and worker rights from employment agreements, in most cases companies are released from all environmental responsibilities, such is the desperation of Jamaica and other poorer countries.

It is as if the populations of these countries are sold as slaves to the foreign investor, for them to do with as they wish or the government of the poorer countries is acting as pimps for their own people. In most cases the impact of this foreign investment on the local economy is minimal. Foreign companies don’t have to invest in the health care of the local workers, they don’t have to invest in the education of the local workers nor do they help these workers to provide for their retirement as they do in their home countries. For most of these companies all levels of managerial staff are imported thus leaving the manual, more mundane, lower paid tasks to the local workforce. Most of these foreign investors have adopted a here today gone tomorrow mentality, since competition between countries is so high it is not uncommon for these companies to be lured away at a moment’s notice, by competitors who are willing to offer more perks and even less restrictions.

Let me make it extra clear that not all tourists come to Jamaica to smoke weed and engage in sex with locals, a lot tourist come to Jamaica for a nice relaxing vacation. These people work hard and need some downtime and they do not want every retarded Tom, Dick and Jane bugging them every minute of the of the day to buy rubbish. To them I apologise for the actions of some Jamaicans towards them. My advice is a quick stern “no thank you” and walk away, this normally works. To my local Jamaicans harassing these people I say, leave the people alone and let them relax and enjoy their vacation, stop acting like warts on the backside of humanity and the authorities need to do more to rid the streets of this infestation.

Dear Tourist,  let me also make it extra clear that not all Jamaicans exist to service you. Most of us do not sell drugs or sex, we are self respecting people going about our business trying to take care of our families and are offended when you approach us to ask for drugs. 

We are always willing to offer help when you need it, direction and advice but treat us with respect and we will do the same to you. We hear a lot about Tourist Harassment by locals but we never hear anything about Local Harassment from the Tourist. Stopping any Jamaicans you see, asking for drugs or where you can score some action is not on! This is part of the reason I have exiled myself from tourist country, between you and the selling locals I do not know which one is worst and it seems both are guilty of stereotyping.

Some locals assume every tourist have money and want drugs and sex while some tourist assumes that every Jamaican sell drugs, sex and wants to rob them. These sets of people are making it very hard for those of us locals and visitors who make no such assumptions and would just like to be left alone.

There are three types of foreigners who come to Jamaica, first there is the tourist (1), the kind that wants to be picked up from the airport in a coach bus and taken directly to their all-inclusive resort and care nothing about leaving the resort, they are also the type that complains on messaging boards if they see any local Jamaicans at the resort where they stay, the only local they want to see is the one serving them the drinks. And at the end of the vacation they want to be taken directly to the airport departure lounge where they can make their escape. The only problem I have with this type of tourist is when they have an opinion about the wider Jamaican society which is almost always negative. They can have all the opinions they want about the condition of the bus use to transport them to and from the resort and about the resort but how can you have an opinion about a country and its people just by looking out your bus window?

Then there is the visitor types (2), they may or may not stay at an all-inclusive resort but will venture out into the society. They want to enjoy their vacation but also want to know more about the country they are visiting.

Then there is the third type, the traveler (3) my favorite type, they adapt to any country they visit like a fish to water, eat local foods, and only rent locally owned and operated hotels. They not only come to the country for vacation but sometimes try to help the wider society, helping out at local schools, join various environmental groups for beach cleaning anything they enjoy or they can do nothing but wonder the country interacting with its people, they have street and travel smarts and will always make the right decisions. When they are ready to give their opinion I listen because in almost all cases their opinion is both open and objective never malicious.

A person intent on vacationing in Jamaica must do some research, you must know what type of person you are and what area of the island fits your personality. Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios are well known worldwide and for good reason. For the most part they offer the generic brand of tourism that appeal to both low, mid and high end tourism in a generic type of way, whatever you want and can afford they will provide, sun, sand, sea, weed and sex but these types of locations attract certain types of locals and certain types of tourist that may not fit your conservative personality and may spoil your vacation experience. If you are offended by public nudity, public sex acts, public drunkenness and weed buying, selling and smoking then maybe this location is not for you. We have loads of different locations which offers different experiences just do some research, ask around.

Apartheid Jamaica: Assumption is the Mother of all Fk-ups!!!
Long ago, I met some Black Americans after their visit to Jamaica, they complained that they never get the same treatment as white tourist, well after further discussion I realized what they were really saying, which is that Jamaicans do not make the same “initial” assumption about Black Americans tourist as they do about white tourist. The determination as to whether they are tourist or not is only made after speech, they are assumed to be Jamaicans until they say something in an American accent, after which for the most part they are treated like an American tourist but the “initial assumption” can make or break an entire experience.

I had a discussion with some friends of mine and one said it is not possible for a Jamaican to be a tourist, or treated like a tourist in a predominantly white developed country. The general consensus was that Black Jamaicans are never viewed or given the tourist treatment regardless of which country they are in, the assumption is that Jamaicans are assumed to be either impoverished refugees or emigrants who could never afford a vacation. I stated in another blog that the same assumption is made of a black person in a store or supermarket on the upper east side of Manhattan; they never assume you are a fellow shopper but a worker, always asking where is this item or do you have this in Blue. One friend said heck! It is not possible for Jamaicans to be treated like tourist in our own country much less some other country.

A friend of a friend who lives in North America decided to treat his white girlfriend to a vacation in Jamaica, he booked both flight and hotel then decided to surprise her with the grand vacation. They arrived in Jamaica and checked into their hotel, all was well until the next morning when the happy couple went out to enjoy what tourist country had to offer. On their return to the hotel his girlfriend walked pass the guard at the gate and she was greeted warmly, followed by her Jamaican boyfriend bringing up the rear with the days shopping. He was promptly stopped at the gate by the guard who refused him access, the guard called back his girlfriend to ask her if this man was in fact with her. The basic assumption by the guard is that this man is not vacationing at the resort and was a rent-a-dread of some sort, his assumption also was that the girlfriend was in fact a valid guess just because she was white. This caused the mother of all confrontation as he was not having any of it.

Hotels need to develop and implement a sterile, standardize way of dealing with everyone regardless of colour, gender, local or foreigner etc. Only when this is done will we avoid making stupid ridiculous superficial assumptions.


  1. Its not often after reading many comments on Jamaica,have I read such a clear,thoughtful and well written article.People should remember they are guests when visiting another country and act accordingly.

  2. This article is very informative and it presents a view not often expressed. I have visited Jamaica numerous times and truly love the people and the county and have always been respectful to the customs of the people. I have stayed in Jamaican owned resorts the majority of the time that I visited the country. I continue to have a relationship with people there and hopefully will be returning for a visit in the very near future.
    P.S. I had a long term relationship with a wonderful Jamaican man and continue to be in touch with his family.

  3. Great read. I agree with almost everything!