Sara Macefield explores the subject of security in the Caribbean.
Once again, a Caribbean island has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons - crime. It is a curse that blights every country across the world, but when it strikes in such a seemingly tropical paradise, the impact is far worse.
This time it was the turn of St Kitts and the victims were a coach-load of cruise passengers who were ambushed and robbed at gunpoint in an audacious attack. Luckily no one was injured, but the blatant nature of this crime meant cruise lines were quick to respond in dropping the island from their itineraries.
And who can blame them? How could they possibly guarantee the safety of their guests ashore with such criminals at large? The victims were left mourning the loss of their possessions and St Kitts was left mourning the damage to its reputation and disappearance of vital tourism business.
As islands such as Jamaica and Antigua know to their cost, the spiralling effect of such incidents can have a deadly impact on their image. Nothing hurts healthy tourism trade as fast as a crime-ridden reputation, and countries have to ensure that they act fast – and are seen to act fast – to clamp down on criminal or anti-social activities. After all, this doesn’t only benefit tourists, but the local population too.
St Kitts has responded swiftly, rounding up suspects and implementing security measures, but this isn’t always the case. Some Caribbean destinations kid themselves, claiming that crime levels are no worse than in London or other big cities around the world - but that’s completely missing the point. Is it really realistic to compare a tropical island, where the population is generally in thousands, with major cities where the population runs into millions?
Of course, holidaymakers need to be aware and they need to be streetwise. However, they don’t expect to have to adopt the sort of siege mentality needed in some rougher areas of the world’s leading metropolises. On the other hand, it’s also important to keep things in perspective. An outburst of violent crime in Jamaica’s capital Kingston doesn’t mean that its popular north coast resorts are no-go areas. Not only are they on a different side of the island, but there’s a mountain range between them too.
Everyone realises that crime happens and when it happens to tourists there will be a flood of international newspaper headlines. It’s then up to the islands to nip the problem in the bud. Catch the perpetrators and put systems in place to prevent a repeat. Paying lip service to such efforts and failing to take appropriate action fools no one.
Definitive Caribbean passionately believes in the beauty and friendliness of the Caribbean islands. Crimes that touch tourists are very rare but as in every other country of the world, they exist. As Sara Macefield says, "It all depends on how swiftly governments respond to negate the problems as to whether you should travel to the destination." Our message to those contemplating a holiday on St Kitts is to keep things in perspective - when did it last happen (never) - is this likely to happen again? Unlikely...
For an update to this story please read Cruise Lines Return To St. Kitts After Armed Robbery by Nevis 1.
For information about what to see and do on St Kitts please see The Definitive Caribbean Guide to St Kitts.