(Jamaica Gleaner) Director of Tourism Donovan White was at pains to reassure a Canada-based reporter that Jamaicans harboured no open hostility towards gay visitors during a press conference at Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Montego Bay last week.
Michael Pihach, who was on his first trip to Jamaica, had asked White about measures the Government was taking to “curb the perception and reputation” that Jamaica was homophobic, which has caused many gays to shy away from vacationing on the island.
“It is my first time in Jamaica and it has been a very positive experience here. The people are so friendly and it is very uplifting and vibrant,” Pihach stated, adding that there was a perception that Jamaica was a violent place for gay, lesbian, and transgender people.
White said every visitor was welcome to vacation in the island, as the Government has no interest in seeking to meddle into people’s romantic lives, but was instead keen on ensuring that each visitor enjoys their time on the island.
“I noted keenly you mentioned the word perception about four times, … but I will stay this: We pride ourselves in welcoming everybody to Jamaica, and like you said when you started, you have been here for the first time and you have had a great experience,” White responded.
“I do believe that we make our best effort every time to ensure that everybody that comes to Jamaica, whoever you are, that you have the same experience. And we don’t ask at the airport who you are and what you do. We expect that you will be here, and like everybody else, have a great vacation, and we want to ensure that we provide you with that vacation. And so, from that perspective, there is absolutely no attempt or obstruction or programme that is aimed at or intended to cause any uneasiness for anybody who comes to Jamaica,” he added.
The director of tourism also contended that even though atrocities occur in many countries across the world, people were still travelling to these regions and Jamaica was in no way worse than them.
“ … In this travel and tourism business, last year, 1.4 billion people went travelling, and they go to many places where there is a massive amount of bad things that happen all across the world, and so I don’t believe it is indeed a fairer perception to have that coming to Jamaica is any more dangerous than anywhere else in the world,” he said.