Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Billion Dollar Loan Facility for tourism enterprises

Published:Thursday | September 22, 2016 | 9:00 AM

Jamaica's Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) now have access to a $1 billion revolving-loan facility funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

"Operators of SMTEs will be able to access up to $25 million at five per cent interest over five years," says Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.

The TEF and the National Export-Import Bank of Jamaica (EXIM Bank) signed a memorandum of understanding at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay yesterday afternoon, formalising the framework of the agreement.

"Providing access to capital is one of the keys to unlocking the true potential of our small businesses, which will enable them to upgrade and become more productive," Bartlett told the gathering, which included the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association; chairman of the TEF Godfrey Dyer; and the organisation's executive director, Clyde Harrison.

According to the tourism minister, with the right support, SMTEs could be a source of innovation and help shape destination development.

Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association president Omar Robinson lauded the initiative, stating that by making financial resources available at cheaper interest rates, these entrepreneurs could purchase raw materials, equipment, and spare parts for their businesses.

"The small and medium-sized entrepreneurs have always been at the heart of commerce within the country," Robinson pointed out, urging the commercial banks to extend this same level of flexibility in extending loans.

Medium-term facilities will enjoy up to a 12-month moratorium on the repayment of principal where necessary, says the EXIM Bank's managing director, Lisa Bell.

She said the loan programme would be structured in keeping with the priorities and needs outlined by the five tourism linkage networks and two sector programmes. These are gastronomy, spa and wellness, knowledge, shopping, and the sports and entertainment networks.

In addition, a special allocation will be made to support the agriculture sector, which she stated, holds significant potential as a tourism-linkage sector.

Elated about the prospects, chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council Adam Stewart described the facility as a shot in the arm. "For some, this will be a real lifeline for the sustainability of their businesses," he said.

As of today, the TEF will allocate $500 million to the bank, kick-starting what the tourism sector is calling the stimulus for growth and development of the country.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com