American tourist Kalina Collier, a flight attendant with Jetblue Airways and a recent visitor to Jamaica, sent out a report to thousands of social media users in which she reported being held hostage by a local hotel because she did not want to follow a quarantine order.
Collier arrived in Jamaica on January 28, 2021, with a departure scheduled for February 1, 2021. Upon her arrival, she took an antigen test and received a positive result from the test on January 30. Collier believed that she did not have COVID-19, however, and took another test that came back negative. Because of the inconsistency in the two tests, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness recommended that she take a PCR test on February 2. This test also came back positive, and she was advised to complete a quarantine of 14 days in her hotel room at the Ocean Coral Spring hotel in Trelawny. The hotel offered to allow her to stay for the quarantine period at no extra charge, rather than having to transfer to a government facility, but she was unhappy at being informed she couldn’t leave.
Collier posted a video to her 11,000 followers on Instagram on February 4, 2021. In the post, she claimed that the hotel was holding her hostage, that she was being kidnapped, and trafficked, and that she intended to destroy the reputation of the resort. She urged her Instagram followers to call the local embassy in Jamaica, immigration authorities in the United States, and news outlets in New York to tell them about her situation. Her post read,“You guys [Ocean Coral Spring] are getting money from the government to say that you handled COVID-19 correctly and I’m over it. Yes, they tried to traffic me. I’m suing the pants off this place.” Collier also alleged that she was not being given food and that hotel workers had placed hidden cameras in her room.
Collier then disappeared from social media while her video went viral across multiple social media platforms and received more than 200,000 views. Her allegations resulted in the hashtags “#WhereIsKalina” and “#SaveKalinaCollier” trending, and social media influencers like Amanda Seales, a Grenadian-American actress, and Spice, a Jamaican artist, to believe her and to speak out on the situation.
Tanesha Clarke, the director of sales at the Ocean Coral hotel, countered Collier’s social media claims by telling The Gleaner newspaper that Collier was not missing, that she was safe and receiving all the courtesy the hotel team could provide. She received room service twice a day for her meals and has direct contact with Hospiten, the medical provider for the resort. She also had contact with Trelawny’s local public health representative.
Several days later, when Collier returned to social media after an absence, she said she was fine, was not being held hostage, and had not been kidnapped. By that time, however, hundreds of thousands of people were convinced that something terrible had happened to her. The hotel’s social media page was bombarded by viewers who said it should close down for good. The same people encouraged their followers to “#BoycottJamaica.” and they also sent death threats to Delano Seiveright, the senior advisor and strategist at Jamaica’s Tourism Ministry. Jamaican officials said Collier had refused to remove her videos or take back her allegations. She ultimately decided to remove her Instagram profile after her employer JetBlue intervened.
At the end of Collier’s 14-day quarantine period on February 14, 2021, she left the hotel and the country with her mother, who had come to Jamaican at some point during the two-week quarantine period. While at Sangster International Airport, Collier and her mother became involved in an expletive-filled confrontation with airport representatives, which was caught on video (below).
WATCH: Kalina Collier and her mother leaving a motor vehicle rental facility this morning before heading to the Sangster International Airport to board a flight to New York City in the United States. pic.twitter.com/1i8a3HBkZ6
— Nationwide90FM (@Nationwideradio) February 14, 2021
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have advised the public to ignore Collier’s allegations, calling them “baseless and mischievous.” According to police, Collier was visited by members of the Trelawny division who confirmed to her that she was safe and had never been in any danger.
Damage to the reputation of the hotel and to Jamaica’s struggling tourism industry had already been done by Collier’s allegations, however, and Collier continues to say she had spoken truthfully and that Jamaica’s tourism officials had harassed her to make a statement.
Industry observers note that the incident shows how people around the world view Jamaica and the Caribbean as an “escape” destination, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Caribbean region relies on tourism for its survival, which means that tourists consider its health and welfare as secondary to their enjoyment. The incident also displays the entitlement mentality of many visitors who believe in their own superiority and who completely disregard laws of so-called “third world” nations.
While it is true that Jamaica and the Caribbean need tourists, travelers to the region should be award that the world remains in a watchful state related to the global pandemic. As the Caribbean’s lack of resources has put it behind in its efforts to vaccinate everyone, protocols put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus must be followed by those who choose to visit there.
Photo: Kalina Collier Instagram