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Kingston, Jamaica: January 15, 2016 – As part of efforts to boost heritage tourism the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) allocated $180 million in funding for Jamaica’s heritage sites in 2015. This is in keeping with the agency’s mandate to create a richer tourism product and also preserve the nation's historical and cultural heritage for its citizens. Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, made this announcement at the Commemoration Ceremony for 1907 earthquake victims, held on January 14 at a newly constructed memorial park in Bumper Hall, Kingston.
The memorial park is built around the century-old 1907 earthquake monument and will, similarly, honour the 500 persons who perished in the massive earthquake and the fire it caused, which destroyed sections of downtown Kingston.
Lauding Jamaica’s rich heritage, Minister McNeill said, “many people travel for sun, sea and sand but the truth is that a lot of countries have that to offer. We have to offer something that is different and what we have is our heritage and culture. This is what sets us apart – our food, our music and our people.” “We have a story to tell and we must do it in such a way that our children know where they are coming from and visitors can hear our story,” he added.
Minister McNeill told the audience of government representatives, diplomats, earthquake victims’ ancestors and community members that it was sites like the earthquake memorial that “tourists are increasingly seeking to visit as they search for a more authentic Jamaican experience. Our own Jamaicans have always been conscious and proud of our history and this type of monument reaffirms the value we place on our past.”
The Minister described the memorial park as an asset to Bumper Hall and the city of Kingston, saying it adds to his Ministry’s effort to transform Kingston into a cultural heritage destination; especially with the capital recently being designated a ‘Creative City of Music’ by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Prime Minister, the Most. Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, in whose constituency the earthquake memorial is located, gave the welcome at the ceremony. The main address was given by Minister of Education, Hon. Ronald Thwaites.
The rehabilitation of the historic site was a collaborative effort between TEF and its partners – the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the CHASE Fund, Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). TEF’s commitment to this project was $9 million.