The board of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has approved funding of $50 million for the evaluation and revision of the National Community Tourism Policy as well as the facilitation of a demand study.
Approximately $30 million will go to the evaluation and revision of the policy while $20 million will be used for the demand study.
Speaking at the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) II seminar at the AC Hotel by Marriott in St. Andrew on July 29, Managing Director, JSIF, Omar Sweeney, said the undertakings are critical in supporting community tourism development in the country, particularly in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its impact on the sector.
“While the community tourism policy was approved in 2015, we will evaluate that against the current realities, because we are in a new reality now from 2015,” he said.
Project Manager, REDI II, Kemeisha Batchan, noted that the demand study will help to better position “ourselves internationally, regionally and, of course, locally based on the trends in demand”.
Ms. Batchan said that it will also assist in developing the types of products and experiences needed to be able to meet the various tastes of the market.
She indicated that following the signing of the necessary contracts, consultants will be engaged for the undertakings.
JSIF Chairman, Dr. Wayne Henry, in his address implored community tourism enterprises to remain resolute despite the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and harness the opportunities available under the REDI II project.
The objectives of the project include enhanced access to markets and climate-resilient approaches for targeted beneficiaries.
Dr. Henry noted that there are myriad linkages and synergies that can be derived from a strengthened community tourism product, which leverages outputs and relationships with key industries.
He said that the hotels and restaurants industry, which captures the majority of tourism activities, has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19, recording a decline of 53.5 per cent in real value added for 2020, the first annual decline since 2001 and the lowest level of real value added since 1992.
“In light of this significant impact, charting the recovery of Jamaica’s tourism product will require continued diversification to create travel niches beyond sun, sand and sea,” he shared.
He said that an important consideration is promoting tourism “that creates opportunities for economic growth in diverse areas while empowering vulnerable groups, protecting the environment and promoting the country’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage”.
REDI ll is being implemented by JSIF through a loan agreement from the World Bank valued at US $ 40 million.