JIS News

The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is playing a pivotal to improve the country’s tourism product, by providing funds for sustainable development projects. An agency of the Ministry of Tourism, the TEF was established in 2005 with the primary role of funding projects earmarked for execution in the Tourism Master Plan, which is aimed at enhancing Jamaica’s image and positioning the country as a premier tourist destination.
These activities, according to Chairman of the TEF, Godfrey Dyer, include upgrading craft markets, providing assistance to small hotels, and improving heritage sites, and resorts. He points out that these, more or less, form the core of activities which are executed through the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).
Mr. Dyer, a past President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and former proprietor of the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay, tells JIS News that funds provided by the TEF are derived from charges levied on visitors to Jamaica, who enter through the country’s airports, the Norman Manley International in Kingston and the Sangster International in Montego Bay, as well as the nation’s seaports.
“The funds are received from a charge of US$10 to every visitor who flies into Jamaica, and US$2 (for those) who come on cruise ships. We currently have a little over J$2 billion in the Fund,” the Chairman discloses.
Mr. Dyer says of this amount, $1.2 billion has been committed to undertaking projects under the Tourism Master plan, comprising $65 million for the ‘Spruce Up Jamaica’ Programme, and $55 million to other projects.
The ‘Spruce Up Jamaica’ project, the brainchild of Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, was a six-week beautification programme which commenced on November 2 and entailed improvements to the physical appearance of the island’s six resorts, most of which were completed in time for the start of the 2007/08 Winter Tourist season on December 15.
The six resort areas, each of which is administered by a Resort Board, are: Kingston, Port Antonio, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril, and the South Coast. Projects funded by the TEF are usually recommended by the Boards, the Chambers of Commerce, and other organizations and entities, for consideration.Activities under ‘Spruce Up Jamaica’ primarily entailed the pruning of trees, cleaning of verges, bushing of sidewalks, painting of buildings, removal of derelict vehicles and other unsightly objects, and marking and remarking of street signs.
Mr. Dyer describes as “excellent” the activities undertaken during the period. “I am very pleased with what has happened in these areas. When you move around in the resort areas you see that something was done. And one of the things that we have decided that we will not allow, is for these places to fall back into an unsightly state. We are and will be doing continuous beautification in the resort towns, and this is a continuous job. So, we will be tying in maintenance into the programme, (and) the maintenance programme will be spearheaded by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), and we (TEF) are financing it,” he adds.
“We don’t want a situation where, when the (winter tourist) season comes around again, we have to be ‘sprucing up’. That would have already taken place. We just want to ensure that what is done is maintained,” Mr. Dyer tells JIS News.The activities have not been confined to the resort areas, the Chairman points out, but have also incorporated other areas such as May Pen in Clarendon and Mandeville in Manchester.
Mr. Dyer says the TEF is also providing funds for the upgrading of several heritage sites, work on which has already started. These include the historic Devon House and Ward Theatre, the scenic Hope Gardens, as well as beautification work in Port Royal. He adds that the Seville Great House in St. Ann is also earmarked for renovation.
He points out that the projects are at varying stages of execution, and that the TEF Board initially decided on a $30 million allocation for the upgrading of Devon House. He says, however, that it may require increased funding, with “another estimate being done.”
Additionally, he advises that work has commenced on some of the craft markets.Turning to other projects, Mr. Dyer says work is to be undertaken along the Montego Bay Hip Strip, which will see the old hospital site being developed into a park.”The design and all the drawings have been completed by the architects and the project is going out to tender this February. So (we expect) work to commence in another month to six weeks. This project is going to take up to about 10 months to be completed,” Mr. Dyer notes.
He also says plans are in the making for thematic developments for Negril and Ocho Rios. “We have signed contracts, (and) we have architects from Jamaica, combined with some from overseas, who are doing these theme designs. It is one of the ways of improving the nature tourism resort areas,” Mr. Dyer explains.The Chairman says another undertaking, to which serious consideration is being given, is the introduction of mobile police monitors. These, he explains, are units equipped with closed circuit cameras, capable of zooming in on activities within a four mile radius. One has already been acquired, he says.
“We recently bought one for the Montego Bay police, which will be used mainly along the Hip Strip, but (which) can be used for other events, for example the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival. This (unit) has been in operation for about two months now, and is something, which the police are finding very useful as it assists them in dealing with matters such as tourist harassment and other illicit activities. Depending on how it works, when we see how effective it is, then we will look at getting one each for Negril and Ocho Rios,” Mr. Dyer says.
For the medium to long term, Mr. Dyer says the TEF wants to ensure that Jamaica’s resort areas are “improved to the point where they become attractions.” “In other words, when you enter a resort town, you should know it’s a resort town with beautification undertaken, being properly maintained, (and) well kept; that’s the goal for us. And, of course, to look at heritage sites, to improve on them,” he advises.The TEF Chairman says the entity’s overall activities are administered by a 13-man team, comprising a Board of Management, and administrative staff. The Board comprises six members, including Deputy Chairman, John Byles; current JHTA President, Wayne Cummings; former JHTA President, Josef Forstmeyer; Montego Bay businessman, Mark Hart, and hotelier, Adam Stewart, son of hotel mogul, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. Mr. Dyer says the TEF’s administrative staff comprises seven persons, headed by Executive Director, Ian Neita, and includes a project manager, all of whom operate out of Kingston.
“At the moment we are in the process of recruiting another project manager to be based in Montego Bay, because, although we don’t execute (projects), we still need to monitor what is going on,” Mr. Dyer tells JIS News.