Pointing to the huge difference between how much value small and medium sized players bring to the tourism sector and how much they earn from it, Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is on a mission to narrow the gap.
Among the initiatives planned to offer support to budding small and medium sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs) and boost the competitiveness of the local tourism product, the ministry of tourism will be developing an innovation-based tourism incubator (ITI). The initiative, led by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), will support entrepreneurs in converting innovative ideas into viable businesses.
“We are investing in ideas through the innovation incubator that we have established. We have $31 million in this year’s budget to do just that — to go and mine ideas and find young people all across Jamaica with ideas, because tourism is driven by ideas,” said the minister.
He was speaking at TEF’s recent business development information session for SMTEs. The gathering of stakeholders, Bartlett explained was an effort to ensure everyone understood the importance of building resilience and capacity for smaller players.
“Eighty per cent of the value of tourism experiences worldwide is driven by small and medium enterprises. The unfortunate fact is that less than 20 per cent of the returns from tourism go to this sector. So, as we rebound and reimagine, we are bringing a new dynamism to the process, and we are trying to rebalance that anomaly. We want you [SMTEs] to get a larger share of the tourism dollar,” he said.
Bartlett noted that the tourism ministry and its public bodies are also offering support to SMTEs and hospitality workers using three pillars: international certification through the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI); financial support through businesses such as the Jamaica National Bank and the EXIM Bank; and marketing through the Jamaica Tourist Board.
“We put $1 billion into the EXIM Bank. They have unlended $1.5 billion to 620 partners who have taken up loans, and they still have $500 million to unlend because it’s a revolving scheme. What it means is that you pay back, and that’s good. We also put $200 million with Jamaica National with the menu of products that they offer, including the TEF 5x5x5, and that has produced results where $900 million has been unlended, and they still have capacity to lend again because it revolves,” he said.
The business development information session for SMTEs is an initiative of the Tourism Linkages Network, a division of TEF, which was executed with key partners such as the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ); EXIM Bank; Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association (JMEA); Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC); Jamaica National Bank Small Business Loans; and the Companies Office of Jamaica.
The session brought together key business development experts in collaboration with TEF, and highlighted the products and services available to SMTEs to facilitate their expansion. These include: competitive business loans; GOJ financing facilities; vouchers to assist SMTEs with technical needs; effective business marketing; business development grants; as well as product testing and product standardisation services (to ensure products meet market requirements).