'Meet TEF obligations first'
Chairman of the Lucea Development Initiative Nerris Hawthorne says that the Government should only take money from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) after the fund has fulfilled its obligations outlined in the country's Tourism Master Plan.
"The TEF, if it had satisfied the tourism product, and they still had all that money, then yes, use it for something else. But they haven't even half-satisfied the tourism product because when you take some parishes like Hanover and towns like Lucea, that have not benefited yet, it is time for those places to benefit before we say TEF has excess money," Hawthorne said in an interview with Western Focus last week.
"It is not that there is excess money. It is that the money is not being spent on the places that need it. Look how many places that are in Hanover to be developed and none of them has been done yet! And I am sure the same goes for other parishes, too. So deal with the tourism product first, and then if they have excess money, take what's left," she added.
The TEF was established under the Tourism Enhancement Act of 2004, which enabled the Government of Jamaica to legally establish a system to collect a fee from cruise and airline passengers.
The corporate body is mandated to fulfil the primary objectives of the Tourism Enhancement Act, including, among other things, the coordination of Jamaica's Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development; the approving and monitoring of the implementation of tourism projects and programmes; collection of the tourism enhancement fee; and collaboration with other agencies to achieve growth and development in heritage, entertainment, culture, the environment, and community-based tourism.
Under the TEF Act, at present, an enhancement fee of US$20, or the Jamaican dollar equivalent, is paid by passengers travelling by air, and US$2 in respect of those travelling by sea, most of whom come to the island on cruise vessels.
Some categories of travellers are exempted from payment of tourism-enhancement fees. These are: children under two years old; persons who enjoy diplomatic immunity or privileges; those travelling by air destined for some other place outside of Jamaica and who are in transit in Jamaica for twenty-four hours or less; and crew members of commercial airlines or ships who are on duty.