The Ministry of Tourism says it is heartened that the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has broadened the scope of the Rural Economic Development Initiative Phase II (REDI II), to provide a suitable response to the fallout from COVID-19.
“This will assist many community-based tourism entities at the grassroots… to weather the ravaging impact of the pandemic and better position themselves to succeed in the post-COVID era and the new tourism industry that it will produce,” Senior Director of Technical Services in the Tourism Ministry, David Dobson, said at a virtual stakeholder sensitisation session for REDI II held on September 23.
He was speaking on behalf of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Jennifer Griffith.
Mr. Dobson noted that building COVID resilience is key if entities are to thrive in the tourism sector in the ‘new normal’ that is emerging.
“This is precisely why we have unveiled the Tourism Industry COVID-19 Protocols, which were developed to ensure the safety of the workers in the industry, as well as to build confidence among travellers to adapt to the new normal of additional health and hygiene practices,” Mr. Dobson said.
He pointed out that the protocols have received the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, adding that when fully adhered to, they will make Jamaica among the most COVID-19-resilient destinations in the world.
“Therefore, we believe there is a distinct synergy between the Ministry’s drive to facilitate the swift recovery of the tourism sector from the COVID-19 pandemic and the COVID compliance component of the REDI II project,” the Senior Director said.
He pointed out that this element of the programme will provide assistance to many small tourism enterprises, in order to ensure that they acquire the equipment and other resources needed to make them COVID-compliant and market ready.
Mr. Dobson said that this will enable these entities to remain in operation and safely serve visitors.
Under this component of the programme, operational manuals will be developed and customised to suit community tourism and agricultural entities, in keeping with the COVID-19 protocols. Safety Point Persons will also be trained to identify, monitor and facilitate COVID-19 safety regulations within their various community and farming areas.
The types of grant requests that will be considered under the programme include provision of biosecurity equipment (BSE), retrofitting businesses to adhere to physical distancing requirements, fast-tracking registration of entities to enable access to REDI II funding, signage to support the COVID-19 protocols, health and safety training on the new COVID-19 protocols, and sanitation infrastructure support.
“The Ministry of Tourism and its agencies welcome the REDI II initiative, as it aligns with the Ministry’s strategic priorities, based on its Grant Policy Framework,” Mr. Dobson said.
“This framework fits within the strategic objectives of the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies, as it supports community tourism development across Jamaica – particularly utilising the cluster model,” he added.
He further noted that this is aimed at improving the capacity of community-based organisations through capacity building; increasing their market share, and promoting them through digital marketing platforms.
Entities that are engaged in the following tourism activities or services will be considered for support under the project: gastronomy, including restaurants and other food providers; accommodation such as hotels, villas, bed & breakfast and homestays; transportation (Jamaica Tourist Board-licensed operators); Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo)-certified Tour Guides; experience providers, such as museums, cooking classes, arts and craft, nature trails, farm tours, and heritage tours; attractions; places of interest; and beauty and spa products and services.
REDI II, which aims to improve both the Agricultural and Tourism sectors, has as its overall objective, to enhance access to markets and to build climate resilient approaches for targeted beneficiaries.
Building on the experience and results of the first phase of the project, this new phase of REDI will focus on strengthening value chains and developing tourism clusters with an emphasis on the linkages between producers, service providers and buyers to improve economies for small agricultural and tourism enterprises.
On November 14, 2019 the World Bank Board gave its approval for a US$40-million loan to fund the second phase of the REDI II project.
Subsequent to this approval, the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank signed the project and loan agreements on March 3, 2020.