Illegal attractions - Hundreds of tourism facilities operating illegally across the island
Scores of popular tourist attractions operating across the island are doing so without a licence, in breach of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) Act.
A significant number of these entities are places that offer accommodation, with one such being the Whitfield Hall Hostel located at the foot of the Blue Mountains in St Thomas.
The former coffee property great house, which has been operated as a hostel and camping site since 1946, was the scene of an accident recently, resulting in the death of two-year-old Can Sarioglu.
The JTB Act states that “… no person shall operate any tourist accommodation unless there is in force, in respect of such accommodation, a licence granted under this act.’
In order for these entities to obtain licences they have to meet some statutory requirements such as insurance coverage, security, approval by a tourism liaison officer of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. If water is involved, they are also required to have safety equipment and lifeguards.
“There is a low compliance rate with many of the attractions and we are working with them continuously with the resources we have to try and improve the compliance rate, because we believe it is in everybody’s interest, both the client and the proprietors, to be licensed,” said Dennis Hickey, executive director of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo).
According to Hickey, over the past two years more than 140 accommodation entities have been written to encouraging them to get licensed. He said these include a number of motels on the Port Henderson main road in St Catherine, popularly known as the Back Road.
Some of the other entities that The Sunday Gleaner have found to be operating without licenses include four of the five Blue Holes in Ocho Rios, which all flow from the same river and the internationally famous Culture Yard in Trench Town.
“One man started a Blue Hole and four men go below him and only one is licensed,” Hickey confirmed.
“We are fixing up Culture Yard to make it able to be licensed, because there are certain requirements, so there is a project right now ongoing.”
Where Whitfield Hall is concerned Hickey said records show that TPDCo has been writing to the operators for the past 16 years.
“I have a file dating back from 2000 where these people at different stages have been told to meet the requirements,” said Hickey.
“I see where they had gone in 2013 and got insurance, so it would seem to me that they are trying to get licensed. But you really should not operate contrary to the JTB Act if you don’t have it (a license).”
But proprietor of the property, John Allgrove has criticised TPDCo for constantly changing the requirements to get licensed.
“The TPDCo people will not accept the application form unless everything is in place and I don’t have control over all the things that are supposed to be in place,” argued Allgrove.
“The parish council people are supposed to do some, the fire brigade are supposed to do some, the police liaison people supposed to do something and then the health people supposed to give my people food handlers permits. To line up all of them at the same time has become an impossible issue,” added Allgrove.
The Sunday Gleaner was unable to ascertain if the tragedy that took place on the property last Saturday could have been avoided if all the requirements had been met.