Tourist areas unaffected by unrest in Kingston


KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Jamaica's tourism leaders said there had been no flight cancellations into or out of Kingston and hotels were operating normally in the capital and throughout the island, despite violent confrontations here between security forces and residents of a west Kingston neighborhood.

Jamaica's prime minister P.J. Patterson on Monday deployed the army in the capital in an attempt to quell three days of violence that flared after police raided the Kingston neighborhood in search of illegal weapons.

The police action triggered gun battles between security forces and neighborhood residents that left at least 23 people dead and dozens more injured.

The violence has not spread to the major tourist destinations of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril, but tourism officials are nonetheless concerned that the unrest will hurt Jamaica's $1.3 billion tourism industry.

"We have not received any hotel cancellations associated with this flare-up," said Josef Forstmayr, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association. "We do expect, however, that the negative publicity will alter someone's mind against coming here, and that is why we are taking precautions," he said.

Fay Pickersgill, director of tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board, said the organization will lobby the government for more money to launch a "very strong promotional program" encouraging potential visitors to come to Jamaica.

In particular, she said the board will ask for emergency funds to run its popular "One Love" television spots, which are now off the air until the fall.

"All the major resort areas on Jamaica's north and south coasts remain very calm, with local people and visitors going about their daily lives. Movement in the resort areas is totally unrestricted," Pickersgill said.

In response to the unrest, the State Department issued a Public Announcement warning U.S. citizens to exercise caution in Kingston.

The Department warned of transportation disruptions and road blocks throughout the capital, including the primary route to Norman Manley airport.

The Department stated that there have been "no reports of violence in the rest of the country."

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