What is TEF's role in attracting foreign direct investment into the country?
We have a general mandate of ensuring that tourism in Jamaica is constantly being improved, hence our name. The funds we receive traditionally came from the fees that we charge every passenger who enters the country, whether by airline or cruise. We collect and transfer the money to the government, who then gives us funding. Our mandate remains the same; we have to invest in projects that increase and improve our tourism offering, whether it is infrastructural projects such as ports, street lights, or sidewalks needed to provide the quality of service that our tourists expect. We also invest in human capital and do a great deal of investments in training and providing low-interest loans for our tourism entrepreneurs to gain access to capital to further develop and expand their products and offerings in the sector. We also look at facilitating wide areas of partnerships to increase and improve our offerings. We finance, for example, what we call the Shovel Ready program, where we look at properties with a high investment potential for tourism investments. TEF finances many of these initiatives to develop the link between our manufacturers, farmers, and producers to supply hotels.
How do you boost the number of visitors entering Jamaica and the infrastructure to support them?
One of our strategies is to create partnerships between private sector experts and public sector personnel in the Ministry of Tourism to develop policies that will create the link and fill the gaps to meet the sector's demands. For example, we have found a fairly large gap between what the agricultural sector was doing versus what the hotel sector requires.
How important are your partnerships with the government, private sector, and civil society in promoting the long-term development of the economy?
As an island, we are fairly mature when it comes to our environmental partnerships and representatives. Our tourism appeals to a market that also looks favorably on environmental sustainability. We are also focused on sustainable development, since most of our clientele wants to be on the coastline. The great thing is that we have a mature system of environmental protection, and our mandate stipulates that we only support sustainable programs. So in all the infrastructural programs that we fund, there has to be that sustainability component. On top of that, we also fund direct environmental protection programs. For instance, we fund a recycling program in schools in Negril and Trelawny, in addition to an international coastal cleanup campaign and the Jamaican Environmental Trust's (JET) clean coast program. We also fund the Jamaican Conservation Development Trust (JCDT), which is responsible for the Blue and John Crow Mountains, a UNESCO heritage site.
What are your main goals and targets for 2019?
We are operating based on targets set by the minister to grow Jamaica's arrivals to 5 million per year in 2020. We were at 4.3 million in 2017 and are on target. We also target earnings of USD5 billion, up from USD3 billion today. We have many programs geared toward not just increasing the number of arrivals, but also the average amount spent per visitor. It is about creating new markets, more room stock and ports, and expanding the existing ports to accommodate larger vessels and cruise ships, not to mention facilitating the expansion of the airport. We are building out the streetscapes, repaving the roads, putting in sidewalks and cobblestone crosswalks, and so on. We invest a great deal in human capital development, training, and certifying people to create hospitality professionals. In any kind of service or hospitality setting, it truly comes down to the guest being happy and excited about their experience, thus driving word-of-mouth advertising and repeat customers. Our job is to ensure the country is developed, equipped, and resourced to provide an exceptional experience.