Small business owners in the tourism sector have been keeping their businesses afloat through financial assistance from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
Proprietor of Bubbling Springs in Middle Quarters, St Elizabeth, Lincoln Fagan, says the loan saved his property. After starting his business in 2000, Mr. Fagan confesses that it was rough getting things off the ground.
“The loan has helped Bubbling Springs in many ways. Before I got the assistance, the facility was there but many people didn’t even know about it,” he tells JIS News.
After years of struggling and applying for assistance from financial institutions without luck, Mr. Fagan finally approached Jamaica National Small Business Loans (JNSBL) Limited in 2009.
He was granted a small loan through the TEF, which had a $200 million component to improve the tourism product specially set aside for small businesses in the sector and distributed by the JNSBL.
“It completely turned everything around for Bubbling Springs. It’s only recently, after we got the loan from JN, that people (started to) know about us,” Mr. Fagan says.
He used the money to upgrade certain aspects of his facility, as well as apply various marketing strategies to increase public awareness of his business.
“It was a big breakthrough. For some people it might be small but, for me, it was one of the biggest things to happen. When you see people start rolling in, in buses from all over Jamaica, it was really a great feeling,” Mr. Fagan states.
The financing he received through the TEF has transformed the Middle Quarters mineral bath into one of the major attractions on the island’s south coast for Jamaicans and tourists.
“People come here to get healing from various complaints. Many have been healed from pain and aches, arthritis, wounds and other ailments. They come to Bubbling Springs and within a day or two they will call us and say they have been healed,” he boasts.
“I feel good that I am using this business to do my part in developing our country’s tourism product,” he adds.
Financing has been provided to small hotels, attractions, villas and apartment owners to expand and develop their properties, as well as in the provision of loans to ground transport operators in the tourism sector.
Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours is another attraction which has benefited from TEF funds. Started in 1991, it has become one of the island’s leading eco-tourism attractions, offering tours of the Blue Mountains.
Providing accommodation in Negril, Westport Cottages is also a beneficiary of the funding. The proprietor has developed a 16-room facility on the Norman Manley Boulevard that provides basic facilities to a diverse visitor base.
Many other businesses have refurbished and enhanced their operations with the funds they have accessed. A total of 67 loans have been disbursed to the sector.
The maximum loan is $3 million and the funds are provided at a three percent interest rate for a maximum term of five years. Loans of up to $1 million are available for ground transportation operators.
The Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development was finalised in 2002, and TEF was developed to implement the recommendations of this tourism plan.
The mechanism for achieving this was an Act giving the then Ministry of Industry and Tourism the power to collect fees of US$10 from incoming airline passengers and US$2 from cruise passengers and the proceeds placed in a dedicated fund to benefit tourism.
Source: Jamaica Information Service (http://ow.ly/19j4m)
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