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Canadian tourists may not be able to claim trip cancellations to Jamaica amid violence on island, travel expert warns

Soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint in the August Town community of Kingston, Jamaica, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Jamaica’s prime minister declared a widespread state of emergency Tuesday, Dec. 6, to fight a surge in gang violence on an island with one of the highest murder rates in the region. (AP Photo/Collin Reid) Soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint in the August Town community of Kingston, Jamaica, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Jamaica’s prime minister declared a widespread state of emergency Tuesday, Dec. 6, to fight a surge in gang violence on an island with one of the highest murder rates in the region. (AP Photo/Collin Reid)
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Despite Jamaica’s prime minister recently declaring a widespread state of emergency following a surge in gang violence and murder on the island, a travel expert warns that Canadian travellers may not be granted cancellation claims for travel insurance policies.

According to Government of Canada’s travel advice and advisories notices, travellers entering Jamaica should “exercise a high-degree of caution in Jamaica due to a high level of violent crime.”

The state of emergency applies to regions in the capital of Kingston as well as six of Jamaica's 14 parishes. This includes popular tourist spots in Montego Bay.

The Associated Press has reported that the island of 2.8 million people tallied 1,421 killings so far this year. This time last year, Jamaica had 1,375 reported killings, according to Jamaica’s Constabulary Force.

As the situation continues to unfold in Jamaica, advisory warnings could change.

Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Insurance, warns that travel insurance policies do not necessarily account for cancellations or medical concerns when they are attributed to what constitutes as “known causes.”

“There’s a small clause in many of the contracts that basically addresses a ‘known cause,’” he told CTVNews.ca on the phone Thursday. “If you bought that policy and it’s starting to be shown in the media that there is unrest [in a specific destination] and you bought it while knowing that you may want to cancel your trip, it’s too late.”

Firestone remains uncertain as to whether most cancellation policies will cover claims given the fact that media coverage has already notified Canadians about surges in crime and violence in Jamaica.

“If you wanted to cancel a trip to Jamaica right now that you bought a couple weeks ago, and you bought cancelation insurance, will you be able to get paid on that claim? Or, if you buy [cancelation insurance] tomorrow after watching all the news reports, is that now too late and after the fact? I can’t seem to get a clear answer on that.”

Firestone warned that “being afraid of the rioting” is not a legitimate reason to be granted a cancellation claim, despite the pressing dangers spreading throughout Jamaica.

“You could buy a ‘cancel for any reason’ policy, but that’s a very expensive proposition and again that is maybe the only advice that could be given to people right now,” he said.

The bottom line, he explained, is travelling to Jamaica right now is “a really personal decision, but if you have concerns, you have to decide whether you’re going to be protected by insurance, both medically and from a cancellation perspective.”

"It’s going to be dicey how this all falls down.” he added.

With files from The Associated Press

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