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KINGSTON, Jamaica; August 30, 2017: Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has disclosed that the country earned a record US$2 Billion during the first eight months of this calendar year from 2.8 million visitors.
The figure represents an increase of 8.3 percent in gross foreign exchange earnings than the US$1.83 billion earned last year over the same period. In addition, cruise passenger arrivals were up 5.1 percent for the same period.
“My mission is to enhance the retention of the dollar from this US$2 Billion. In fact, the latest report from the World Travel & Tourism Council indicates that the retention of the dollar, from the consumption side has risen to 70 percent. The Tourism Linkages Council is going to drive that value added that is needed to take the retention levels in Jamaica from 30 cents to at least 50 cents, for the total dollar that is spent,” said Minister Bartlett.
He also highlighted that direct contribution from tourism to the GDP at the moment is 8.4 percent but the induced and indirect contribution is now 27.2 percent. So tourism remains one of the few labour intensive sectors and directly employs 106,000 Jamaicans while generating indirect jobs for one in four persons, linked to sectors such as agriculture, creative and cultural industries, manufacturing, and construction.
The Tourism Minister was speaking at the press briefing to report on the year-old TEF/EXIM Bank Small Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTE) Loan Facility, at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on August 30, 2017.
According to reports received from the EXIM Bank, as at August 29, 2017, they have received twenty-eight completed loan applications, totalling J$509.9 million, under the SMTE loan programme.
“The excellent response of SMTEs to the loan facility is proof that it is welcomed and well needed. Operators of SMTEs, who access up to $25 million dollars at 5 percent interest, over 5 years, will now be able to better respond to the demands of our thriving tourism sector,” said the Minister.
Twenty-two applications totalling J$408.9 million have also been approved with disbursements to date (August 30, 2017) totalling J$311.16 million, exceeding the initial tranche of J$300 million received for disbursement.
It is anticipated that the remaining approvals will be disbursed in short order. Six applications totalling J$101 million are being processed, which will bring total approvals in excess of J$500 million.
These applications fall in the following approved categories: Attractions (J$84.50 million); Small Accommodations (J$105 million); Gastronomy (J$25 million); Linkages (J$32 million); Shopping (J$30 million); Manufacturing (J$47.5 million); Services (J$48.4); Spa & Wellness (J$12.5 million); Domestic tours and Car rentals (J$125 million).
“Over the last year this loan has enabled the continuation of the growth of tourism as a discreet sector. I am able to say to you today, that the industry has expanded by 36 percent over the last ten years. That compares favourably to the overall economy itself that has expanded by only 6 percent over the same period. So tourism has grown six times the rate of growth of the GDP,” said the Minister.
The loan facility was launched last September, with a commitment of $1 billion from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to provide well-needed loans to small and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs) to boost the sustainable growth of the industry.
TEF presented EXIM Bank with the first tranche of J$300 million last September and during today’s launch, which marks the second phase of the loan, TEF provided another tranche of J$350 million towards the further development of the programme.
“The impact of building these underpinnings is creating greater expenditures – that is, the tourist is spending more in the country because we have more to offer them. It is important to note that building the capacity to provide more of what the tourists require when they get here is to build out the production and enable the consumption patterns of the tourist, to favour the retention of the dollar in our destination,” said the Minister.
In closing, Minister Bartlett urged financial institutions to do more to support small businesses so they can better equipped to respond to the demands of the tourism sector.