OPPOSITION spokesman on tourism, Edmund Bartlett is calling on Government to make available J$100 million from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to establish a renewable energy fund to lend to small hoteliers at a low interest rate.
According to Bartlett, the money — which would be disbursed through a designated financial institution — will help to keep small hotels afloat as they reel from the effects of high electricity bills.
The former tourism minister said the funds should be solely used for putting in place renewable energy solutions that will guarantee lower electricity charges across the board.
"These solutions would include putting in energy conservation equipment such as LED lights, appliances, solar water heaters and solar power systems," Bartlett said, adding that "many small hotels are on the brink of collapse given the tough operating environment that now exists."
Bartlett said that after doubling the TEF contribution last year, the Government is likely to receive just under US$40 million or J$3.6 billion in revenues this year alone.
"In addition to ring fencing at least half of the funds for critical marketing and airlift support, the remaining resources must be spent on initiatives aimed at improving the tourism product so as to continue growth in the sector and spread further the benefits coming out of tourism," Bartlett said. This, he added, will ultimately result in a growing Jamaican economy.
The formula, Bartlett insisted, is already on hand for the Government to move with alacrity as under the last Administration, of which he was a part, a small hotel refurbishing programme was implemented through Jamaica National.
But Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill said several factors would have to be taken into consideration before such a fund can be established. He noted that there would also have to be discussions with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.
"Details of how we do it would take careful thought and consideration," McNeill told the Jamaica Observer.
Among the issues to take into consideration, McNeill said, is how the recipients would be selected as well as the determination if the money would be distributed as a loan or a grant.
"I have already indicated to the TEF board to look at long term funding of some big projects," the tourism minister said.