THE Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) will now be required to have a three-to five-year plan to develop major projects which will greatly enhance the tourism product, according to Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill.
Last October’s increase in the taxes to incoming air passengers to Jamaica, from US$10 to US$20, now sees the TEF collecting approximately US$40 million annually, which has, over the years, been used to fund small projects such as planting trees and painting sidewalks in resort towns.
But according to McNeill, the TEF needs to be used not only for beautification of the tourism product, but also for development.
“What was happening before was everything was coming out of the TEF... you have a fund and people just come and apply and apply, but what we need is a plan which deals with both the maintenance and basic enhancement, so it must have transformational projects,” McNeill said.
The minister, who was addressing the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s head offices in Kingston yesterday, said the TEF board is to identify a budget to fund some of these major projects in time for the next financial year.
Among some of the major projects the TEF will be focusing on is the development of heritage tourism to include plans for Port Royal and heritage sites in Spanish Town.
Additionally, the TEF will also be tackling major rehabilitation works on the sidewalk in Negril, and the repositioning of the Montego Bay Civic Centre within the coming months.
Meanwhile, McNeill said he is not in agreement with the current use of the TEF and wants to see this addressed soon.
“Over the last few years, the TEF has dealt with things on an ongoing basis; so if someone wants a hospital painted, they come in, or if you have a festival you come in, and I do not believe that is how the TEF should be managed,” he said.
As such, McNeill said the work of keeping the tourism product at a certain level must be continued, hence the need for cleaning and beautification and other general things. However, the TEF is a transformational body, and as such must take on bigger projects.
“Cleaning a road and planting a couple trees can help, but we need to tackle, say, a big project like a Ocho Rios,” he said, adding that there was a recent meeting with stakeholders in that resort town to look at a plan to address, in a major way, a number of things which need to be done.
“I can’t go to a cruise line and say I want two more cruise ships to come... they [will] ask what you doing, and I say I am cleaning up the street, or I’m going to paint a sidewalk, or I am going to deal with harassment; they will say we have heard that already, so we will have to come up with something major,” he said.