$2B TEF Fund to Market Tourism and Boost Sector

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Godfrey Dyer, Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), said that the increase in the TEF fee for incoming air passengers to Jamaica, which became effective on October 1, will create a J$2 billion fund to support the marketing initiatives of the Jamaica Tourist Board, as well as to boost tourism infrastructure and businesses. The US$10 TEF fee was increased by 100 percent at the start of the month.

He pointed out that the JTB’s funding from Government, to effectively market Jamaica as a tourism destination was reduced following the Administration’s Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mr. Dyer was speaking at a recent Town Hall Meeting for mico entrepreuners, hosted by JN Small Business Loans Limited, at the St. Paul’s United Church in Montego Bay.

Noting that with the advent of the IMF Agreement “money got tight,” the TEF Chairman said, “The Tourist Board did not receive adequate marketing support and they had to come to us. We were not set up to provide funding to the Board, but we were faced with this dilemma: Do we assist with the marketing or do we not?”

And, he explained, that given the importance of the sector to the economy, the TEF provided the JTB with $1.5 billion, over a two year period, to market the destination and shore-up tourist arrivals.  He also pointed to the fact that visitor arrivals to Jamaica increased in 2010 by 2.8 percent, even as other destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America experienced a dip in arrivals over the two year period.

In addition to funding the JTB’s marketing initiatives, Mr. Dyer explained that there were several major projects to improve the country’s main resort areas and corridors. Approximately $260 million will be spent to upgrade the ‘Elegant Corridor,’ which stretches from Rose Hall to Montego Bay; $55 million was allocated to fix traffic lights in sections of Montego Bay; and that $10 million was allocated for infrastructural improvements in Bogue.

Turning to players in the industry, Mr. Dyer pointed to the availability of funding of up to $5 million for small entrepreneurs who have dedicated at least 30 percent of their operations to supplying the tourism sector; and, that these funds are being disbursed through JN Small Business Loans Limited.

Thelma Yong, Credit and Risk Assessment Manager at JNSBL, outlined the requirements for the TEF loan for small entrepreneurs, underscoring the low interest on the loan, which is five percent per annum on the reducing balance. And, the period for which persons may borrow the funds is five years.

“That is why we call it the ‘TEF Five by Five Loan Scheme,’ she pointed out, highlighting—the $5 million loan amount; its five year life span and the five percent interest it attracts.” The loan facility is available to new and existing businesses, she said, however, entrepreneurs must demonstrate that they have had experience in a similar business.

“A first charge on assets bought with the loan funds is accepted as collateral, in addition to documents authenticating the guarantee of directors; a charge over real estate, a charge over motor vehicle or other specialised equipment,” she stated.

A moratorium of six months is available to beneficiaries of the loan, she added; and this will provide the businesses with a respite during the start-up phase, she explained.

The Town Hall Meeting, part of a series conducted by JNSBL across the island, also encouraged small business operators to position their businesses to become quality suppliers of goods and services to the tourist industry. – See more