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  'Dudus' issue forces damage control for tourist industry

Dated: 19/05/10

WESTERN BUREAU: The foreign affairs and tourism ministries are now faced with the task of doing damage control following the international fallout in the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition matter. Already, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) has mooted that the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Kenneth Baugh be dispatched to the US State Department to 'patch up' things. "Jamaica's presence on the international scene has been sullied," said Wayne Cummings, president of the JHTA. His comments came in light of the security alert that was issued by the United States Embassy on Monday for all its citizens residing here, given tension over the extradition matter. There have also been damning stories in The Miami Herald, The UK Telegraph, The Washington Post, and The New York Times in the past month. The most stinging were The Miami Herald's headline last Saturday, 'Jamaican leader caught in the middle of drug war', and the Telegraph's 'Jamaican PM accused of blocking drug lord trial', that appeared on Sunday. "That type of publicity is unfortunate, it is not the type we look for in the marketplace," bemoaned the JHTA president. He argued that the readership of the publications should not be underestimated. "Their readers are the same people we consider our clients." We could become Mexico History has shown the negative effect this type of publicity has had on countries such as Mexico, which has seen visitor arrivals (both land and cruise) decrease in recent years. Mexico was hit by a US travel advisory because of the narco war, and that was preceded by the swine flu alert. According to the president of the Cruise Council of Jamaica, John Byles, as a result of the advisory, Mexico has had a "hard time" selling itself. Byles feels if the US Embassy's security alert is lifted immediately, it should not affect the already ailing cruise industry. But Cummings is convinced that Jamaica must resolve the issues around crime which became obvious in the Dudus matter. "We need to be very forthright in our utterances, particularly to our elected leaders to ensure they do what has been promised." Yesterday, a number of resorts were forced to send home their non-essential staff in the face of uncertainty over the likely reaction to the announcement that the extradition request for Coke would be signed.