Tourism will not be a plantation - Bartlett
A government minister has sought to assure Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) that the lucrative industry they are involved in will not be a plantation.
"Tourism will be an industry owned by our people," Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett told stakeholders at the signing of a memorandum of understanding for a new loan programme being coordinated by the EXIM Bank, giving SMTEs access to $1 billion funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
Bartlett's assurance could not have been clearer, owing to the fact that this latest roll-out is in keeping with the ministry's National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy, aimed at developing and diversifying the local tourism product islandwide.
The idea of providing banking support for tourism stakeholders and those wanting to enter the industry comes against the background of players in the sector experiencing serious challenges in accessing capital, explained the tourism minister.
"This is coupled with the existence of a high level of leakage of the tourism dollar, a significant portion of which goes back overseas," he pointed out, adding that in light of this, there is a need for more local stakeholders to be able to join the tourism value chain.
"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," he argued.
Initiatives like this new loan programme, he stated, are geared towards fostering the development of a more inclusive, quality and service-oriented industry that not only benefits visitors to the island, but Jamaicans too.
Loans will be offered to providers in the subsectors of health and wellness, knowledge, shopping, and sport and entertainment, which fall under the five networks which underpin the minister's five pillars of growth.
Operators of SMTEs will be able to access up $25 million at five per cent interest over five years.
Chairman of the TEF, Godfrey Dyer, addressing stakeholders during the signing, said a clear growth strategy has been laid out by Bartlett and his organisation's role was now to fulfil that mandate.
"Small and medium-sized enterprises are critical to this cause," he stated.
A former small hotelier, Dyer said he is sorry the TEF was not around in those early days when he and several other players were struggling to stay afloat.