Sole traders and small operators, providing goods and services to the tourism industry, will now be able to benefit from a $100 million loan facility, which was launched on February 28 by the Ministry of Tourism and Jamaica National Small Business Loans.
The ‘Five for Five’ loan scheme, which is being driven by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), is offering loans of up to $5 million at five per cent interest on the reducing balance, over five years. This is in keeping with the government’s thrust to lower interest rates.
The funds are in addition to two tranches of $100 million that were previously put in place for small hotels and attractions, and transport operators. Specifically, the loans will benefit the suppliers of goods and services in the sector, to increase their productivity to meet the demands of hotels and attractions.
Speaking at the launch held at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, described the scheme as “perhaps one of the strongest initiatives by the TEF to enable more small and medium-sized entities to become involved in the mainstream of tourism delivery services”.
He said that while the industry is often accused of being driven by the larger stakeholders, it is in fact a wide range of stakeholders that propel the sector. “This initiative gives energy to a wider policy objective that we have of achieving $5 million arrivals, earning $5 billion over the next five years,” he stated.
Mr. Bartlett stressed that this initiative is about providing an additional window of opportunity for the suppliers such as farmers in rural Jamaica, craftsmen and artisans, whose ability to attract financial aid from financial institutions, is limited.
“To be able to access loans at five per cent over five years, is what gives value and true meaning to our objective of enabling a wider group to become involved in the supply chain,” the Minister said, adding, that tourism must enable job creation and poverty alleviation.
Mr. Bartlett noted that the base of ownership in the industry is being broadened, “by having people appreciate that ownership now doesn’t (just) mean owning a hotel, but being able also to supply the needs of the visitors, who come into the country”.
Meanwhile, General Manager of JN Small Business Loans, Frank Whylie said that since partnering with the TEF in 2008, 79 loans valued at $185.56 million have been disbursed to small tourism businesses, which have strengthened their capacity and enhanced the tourism product overall.
“Over the past three years, we have seen tremendous growth in the capacity of small businesses operating in the tourism sector. Many small hotels, attractions and transport operators were able to improve their businesses through the TEF loan scheme, adding facilities and implementing other capacity building projects to increase the competitiveness of their operations,” Mr. Whylie outlined.
Although it is designed for sole traders, partnerships and companies, the “Five for Five” loan scheme will also facilitate new businesses. In order to qualify, new businesses must be properly registered; entrepreneurs must have a business plan, and a clearly defined market for goods and services. Operators already in business must demonstrate that they have been in operation for at least a year, and must have the necessary licences and permits from the relevant agencies.
The total value of the TEF now stands at $220 million. The Fund facilitates the implementation of the Tourism Master Plan toward the strengthening of Jamaica's Tourism Industry.
CONTACT: ALPHEA SAUNDERS