TREASURE BEACH, South Coast, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has launched a special $20 million revolving loan facility, financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), to boost the compliance of small tourism properties, attractions and businesses in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth. This initiative forms part of the Ministry of Tourism’s National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy aimed at developing community tourism island-wide to diversify the island’s tourism product.
The Community Tourism Loan Facility was launched at BREDS Treasure Beach Sports Park recently and serves as counterpart funding for the Compete Caribbean Initiative which has committed some US$627, 000 to date, to develop this form of tourism in the area.
The loan scheme is being administered by Jamaica National Small Business Loans (JNSBL). Applicants will be able to access loans of up to $2 million at a highly subsidized interest rate of three percent per annum for five years through JNSBL. Several small business operators present at the launch signed loan applications on the spot.
In officially launching the facility Minister Bartlett outlined that the scheme will enable community tourism enterprises in Treasure Beach to become compliant and more appealing. This he says is crucial to positioning Treasure Beach as a unique destination offering a “rustic luxury experience which the rich and famous seek when they want to escape from the formal luxurious settings that are characteristic of some of the destinations that we know, where the link with nature is never broken but the quality of the creature comforts are still at the highest level.”
He said the South Coast getaway is “a treasure to be honed, cultured and nurtured and to be established as a global brand for destination Jamaica.”
Minister Bartlett also toured a number of properties in Treasure Beach ahead of launching the loan facility. Against the background of the need to develop and sustain Treasure Beach’s uniqueness as a destination, Mr. Bartlett told the stakeholders that the loan “is designed to enable you to respond to the demand for destination assurance that the industry is requiring of you. Such as Licensing and compliance – so that when we go to the market and we sell destination Treasure Beach, we’re not second-guessing the quality of the experience or the integrity of the product.”
He hailed Treasure Beach boat tour operators as an example of what was expected, noting that they had obtained insurance that protects their clients and themselves in the event of an accident at sea.
“I want all of our small enterprises in Treasure Beach to have that destination assurance stamped on you so we know,” he added.
In addition to the $2 million loan facility Minister Bartlett pointed out that over the last eight years the TEF through its partnership with the JNSBL “has provided a little over 244 loans and we have spent a little over $556 million through various revolving loan facilities for the small tourism entities.”
While imploring existing stakeholders to seize opportunities being provided for them to upgrade the standard of their properties, Minister Bartlett highlighted that “this is a pilot project for community tourism, which we hope to replicate across the island.”
In anticipation of increased tourist traffic, roads in Treasure Beach are to be improved and consideration given to offering air travel to the South Coast by upgrading the Lionel Densham Aerodrome. To this end the TEF will also be funding road repairs in the area at a cost of some $28 million that will improve access to the community for locals and visitors alike.