McNeill to clamp down on unregulated hotels
TOURISM AND Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has said his
ministry will be moving speedily to amend the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) Act in a bid to clamp down on unregulated hotels and guest houses operating across the island.
The tourism minister made the announcement while addressing Saturday night's 54th annual general meeting of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa, St James.
"I think everybody should understand the importance of us having a regulated industry and understand the dangers that exist of persons now just opening up rooms everywhere and just going online, renting the room, visitors landing and going, and there is no regulation at all," said McNeill. "This is a prescription for disaster, so we are going to move quickly to deal with that."
The tourism minister said sector compliance was an important factor as the ministry continues its series of campaigns to spur growth in the established and emerging tourism markets for the country, citing that this means the JTB Act would have to be amended to include new regulations.
"As it is now, we have had a number of discussions. We are looking at it. We have got to do some amendments to the JTB Act, and those amendments are to give it more teeth, so that we can ensure that the sector is regulated," the minister said.
McNeill said no new laws would be enacted but that greater emphasis would be placed on the enforcement of existing legislation.
"To this end, the JTB Act will be amended to make it more effective by introducing stiffer penalties and increased fines," said McNeill. "I have sent the final recommendations of the amendments to the JTB and to the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association to analyse, but I intend to take it within the next three months to Cabinet for us to begin to issue drafting instructions."
The tourism minister said this would serve to militate against the practice of persons doing as they pleased, operating on a whim and fancy to the detriment of the industry.
"Let me start by saying that the majority of you that are in this room are probably all regulated ... . As a matter of fact, some of you may think you are overregulated," said McNeill. "The fact of the matter is that this is not the problem. The problem is the whole slew of people across the length and breadth of the island who have no licence at all, who are operated off the grid outside the system and if anything happens to them, it is the entire industry that is going to be held accountable, so we have got to regulate."