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Comment: Let’s put Antigua shootings in perspective

Troubles worldwide are enough to panic British holidaymakers into cancelling their trips abroad or plaguing their agent for travel advice.

This week has seen fires in Rhodes, bombings in Istanbul and Torremolinos, a Californian earthquake and a hole in a Qantas aircraft.

Our hearts go out to those caught up in these incidents, and to the families and friends of the British honeymooners shot in Antigua. But what we don’t need right now is sensationalist press tarnishing holiday jewels.

Take Antigua. Here are seven facts to help calm your clients:

  • Crime in Antigua and Barbuda is low when compared to elsewhere in the region, and visitors can usually expect an incident-free stay on the islands’ beaches and resorts.
  • About 33,000 UK holidaymakers visit Antigua each year and tourists are rarely targeted by criminals. To date, most crime is limited to petty theft and burglaries.
  • The Foreign Office website advises tourists not to carry large amounts of cash or jewellery around with them. “Valuables and travel documents should be left, where possible, in safety deposit boxes and hotel safes.” Well, that applies to just about every part of the world, doesn’t it?
  • In 2007 there were 19 murders in Antigua and Barbuda. Compare that to Trinidad with 388 and Jamaica with 1,574.
  • Antigua and Barbuda has an average of seven murders a year. The figure appears to be rising – there were three gun-related murders on the island last month. Some blame immigrants, others an ineffective police force with too few patrol cars.
  • Tourism contributes to about 75% of Antigua’s economy and the local government won’t forget that. So it is aware of policing shortfalls and this year appointed Gary Nelson, a former Canadian police officer, to modernise the force.
  • Our own streets are not exactly safe in the UK. Between April 2007 and March 2008 violent crimes totalled 218, 509. We have 278 prisoners per 100,000 people. That’s pretty high. Is there any place out there that we can consider threat-free? I doubt it.

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