EXECUTIVE Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) Dr Carey Wallace acknowledges the persistent concerns of the public regarding the insufficient investment in sports tourism in Jamaica, but says the agency is committed to making significant efforts to enhance sports tourism in the country.
TEF, which was established in 2005, partners with local, international, public and private stakeholders to advance the strategies of the Ministry of Tourism and its agencies.
They recently sponsored the Jamaica Inn Foundation's Swim For The Sanctuary Open Water Championships at Shaw Park Beach in Ocho Rios, St Ann, to the tune of $2 million.
Wallace says TEF does its best to help entities which they believe are making strides on the sports and tourism landscape.
"We have such a diverse sports offering in Jamaica so I can understand the concern that enough is not being spent to develop because there's so much [sports] and we have limited resources. But we do try and partner, especially with organisations and bodies that are already moving the needle forward," he said.
"The Tourism Enhancement Fund tries to get involved to put some fuel in their tanks so we can achieve more with the combined efforts of the drive by the individuals and organisations — in this case the swim clubs, the Jamaica Inn Foundation, and The White River Fish Sanctuary. Weeks ago we supported the Jamaica Open — the golf tournament — as well. Great move from the Jamaica Golf Association and all those stakeholders who have put together these events to move the needle, and TEF [got] involved to put fuel in their tanks so that they can achieve their objectives.
"So that's the type of partnership we're investing in to ensure that step by step as a nation, as stakeholders, as a people, we are partnering together to get the best leverage and yield from our investments," he added.
Wallace says they are not trying to take over the responsibility of the sports ministry but, rather, are trying to see how best they can use sports to attract more visitors to the island.
"We know we could do more [but] we also have a Ministry of Sport that have their role to play to build out the sporting facilities," he said. "Our focus in tourism is to try and [see] how can we let the large volume of visitors experience the sporting activities here so that it can then further bolster and provide fuel to the activities here on the ground so that they can be more successful.
"Your market is now not just Jamaicans but the visitors who are here who are trying to gobble up and consume as much of the Jamaican experience as possible — and we are so popular as a sporting brand internationally that they would want to gobble up some of those experiences while they are here."
Wallace says they do get requests for sponsorships from several sporting bodies and organisations but says TEF is interested in the well-thought out blueprint which would advance sports tourism.
"We try as much as we can to help to bolster the types of sports that we believe have the fastest and greatest opportunities to convert into more visitors deciding to travel to Jamaica because of that event or because of that programme," he said. "That's how our board kind of views the applications that come into us to say how can we ensure that investment and our return is more bodies and flights coming to Jamaica, more visitors who are here deciding to come out of the hotels to come out and participate in that sporting activity. So, as much as our sports stakeholders can adjust their event to make sure we get those objectives, we'd be interested."