I was on a Facebook group page and one of the members of group shared a link http://www.elliott.org/blog/predatory-tourism-visitor-details-a-horrible-vacation-in-jamaica/ a blog on which a visitor shared a bad vacation experience.

The responses from my fellow Jamaicans was unfortunately typically defensive when visitors criticize our country.   Criticism was levelled at the complainer.  One member who was critical said that he had worked in the tourist industry.  Another who is a member of a prominent business family called the writer a moron.

The responses on the blog page were for the most part supportive of the writer, detailing their own experiences. One person mentioned being physically threatened by a hair braider when she refused to pay double the price originally quoted.  She was so traumatized by the  experience that she suggested that people try Barbados instead. Another person mentioned having had a break in at a villa and having to deal with the owner’s indifference.

I decided to google “complaints about Jamaica’s tourism”.  Tourist harassment remains a serious problem, 29% of tourists surveyed in 2011 complaining about it coming down from a 1996 high of 60%.  I also read other examples of tourists complaining about feeling ripped off.

The responses by my fellow Jamaicans reflect a culture of defensiveness when criticized and also a country that does not understand good customer service.

We need to realize that complaints come with any product and we should see them as tools of development as they point the way to improvement.

Even though policymakers like to congratulate themselves regarding the state of our tourist industry, we are barely scratching the surface of our potential.  We primarily cater to what a friend calls “poorists”, locking them up in all inclusive resorts. Barbados which was mentioned above caters to an up market clientele.  For example, music mogul Simon Cowell has made major property development investments there.

There was a time when Jamaica catered to the very rich.  Celebrities like singer Johnny Cash, actor Errol Flynn and James Bond writer Ian Fleming had homes here.

Jamaica’s tourist potential goes way beyond bringing people to enjoy just the sand and beach.  We can offer a wide variety of activities in areas such as food, history, music, theatre, hiking among others.

Problems like harassment are symptoms of people who are alienated from the tourist industry.  Fully integrating them into a diversified tourist product would solve the problem.

We need to become alot more introspective in our approach to dealing with complaints about our offerings.  People who spend their money and don’t feel satisfied have a right to complain and shouldn’t be dismissed as merely trouble makers.

Inspite of our problems, Jamaica still has alot of goodwill in the international marketplace as people do have rewarding experiences here.   Travel Channel is always very positive about Jamaica’s offerings. We just need to work at making the tourist product much better