JTB heavy-handed and anti-business
A few years ago, I heard that many accommodations in Jamaica were not Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB)-compliant. After waiting for registration for my micro property for more than three and a half years now, I now totally understand why.
In March 2011, I received the official registration of my 'sole trader' business via the Companies Office of Jamaica. In April of the same year, I began to research registration for a JTB licence with the Tourism Product Development Company, which was extremely helpful.
During that year, I came across the first barrier to registration. There was no TPDCo/JTB category for my type of property. My business is a 'living in the real Jamaica' experience in self-catering cottages and a backpacker hostel located in a local Negril community. At a later date, it was decided to make it comply as a 'guest house', which it is not.
The next barrier was a 'letter of no objection' from the West-moreland and Hanover planning departments. Twelve months later, after making no progress with either the Parish Council or Negril Planning Department. I employed a local project manager to assist with progress. The Negril Planning Department replied by requesting full commercial planning permission with complete, expensive drawings for a property already complete, working and which had attained Trip Advisor No1. out of 33 speciality properties in Negril at that time.
LONG WAIT TIMES
Drawings done and submitted to the Negril Planning Department took 12 months to get to the Westmoreland Parish Council and four months later to the Kingston Planning Department as 'not recommended'.
Five officers from Kingston Planning/National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) visited the property, really liked it, and were very helpful in trying to assist me in my application. Agreements were made for me to carry out works to sewerage and boundary fencing, for Kingston to 'recommend' it. The work agreed and completed, final submis-sion was made to Kingston Planning/NEPA. On July 15 this year, my property received planning permission.
I was just about to celebrate and Kingston Planning said 'no', as a letter of no objection cannot be issued yet as the head of National Works Agency (NWA) did not agree! Nearly three months later, Mr Hartley of the NWA has not answered my calls or the many messages I have left. Nor has he responded to Kingston Planning, whose executive meeting he did not attend when my project was passed on July 15, 2014.
To date, trying to get JTB registration has cost me in excess of US$10,000, a lot of money for a microbusiness designed and being run solely by a 64-year-old United Kingdom-born woman. Currently, there is no sign of getting the 'letter of no objection' from planners.
Meanwhile, I have every other piece of paperwork TPDCo needs to expedite my JTB licence registration except the much-needed planning letter. I wonder how many other properties in Jamaica are not JTB registered because of such ridiculous bureaucracy?
In January this year, I was featured on the front page of the Saturday Gleaner. Then a few weeks later, I received a letter from the JTB threatening police action to close me down if I did not get licensed.
Meanwhile, I have a Certificate of Excellence for years 2012, 2013, 2014 from Trip Advisor, where I am currently featured No. 2 out of 45 speciality properties in Negril and also held No.1 position for some time.
I wonder if this valuable letter of objection will soon come.