TOURIST ATTRACTION

Jamaica 2018 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Godfrey Dyer, Chairman of Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), on upgrading resort towns, ensuring greater linkages with local industries, and upcoming projects.

 Godfrey Dyer
BIOGRAPHY
Godfrey Dyer is the Chairman of TEF. He was President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) from 1983-1984 and again from 2003-2005. In 2003, as President of JHTA, he led the lobbying of members of the tourist industry for the establishment of TEF. He previously operated an insurance agency and a resort villa management company and developed several properties as well. He has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial and volunteer activities.

What is the purpose of TEF and its biggest achievements since its inception?

TEF was established in 2004 as a result of a tourism master plan that recommended a number of aspects to upgrade tourism areas and architectures. We charged USD10 for every ticket that is bought outside of Jamaica to come to Jamaica, which is how TEF is funded. Now, there is a demand to also assist with the marketing of tourism so the fee was doubled. 50% of the fund goes directly to the tourism board exclusively for marketing while TEF keeps the other 50% and we deal with projects across the island. In Kingston, we spent over USD2 million refurbishing Devon House. At Montego Bay, we put in traffic lights, and there is a corridor called the Elegant Corridor, where we maintain the landscape and put in streetlights. We concentrate on upgrading resort towns and ensure that they are kept beautiful and clean. There is a government entity called National Solid Waste, and we financed it to clean up all major towns across Jamaica, in particular resort towns.

What are the major challenges and opportunities in the tourism sector?

One of the major challenges in the tourism sector is crime. It has not affected tourism yet, though there is always the threat. That is why we have police funding as well because crime has to be controlled so as not to affect tourism. Tourism has been doing extremely well; in 2017, it is projected to grow 5% and we are currently ahead of that, at 8% to date.

Are linkages with the local economy a challenge in the tourism sector, and how do you work to improve this?

We have established a group called the Linkages Program chaired by Adam Stewart from Sandals Resort. This is to further integrate tourism with the local economy and agriculture, advising farms what is best to produce and ensuring more local products are being used in hotels. At the moment, with tourism we retain 30% of the tourism dollar, and the minister wants to increase this to 50%, and these linkages will help significantly. Every effort is being made to reach 50% in the next three to five years.

How can the entertainment offerings for tourists be developed in Montego Bay in the coming years?

In the early 1970s and 1980s, Montego Bay had about four nightclubs and each one was busy. At that time, there were regular, not all-inclusive hotels. All-inclusive hotels started about 1980 and gradually grew. As a result, everything has dried up and people stay in their hotels. This is why there are not many elegant upscale restaurants in Montego Bay. There are not enough customers. Casinos could possibly pull people out of hotels. Once they are out, they will take a taxi and be more exposed to restaurants and so on. Setting up a nightclub will not be strong enough to pull sufficient numbers to make it viable.

How do you plan to continue to grow the Jamaican brand in the coming years, and what projects do you look to finance?

We will continue to keep cities and the resort areas clean. In Montego Bay, we are building a major park at the cost of JMD700 million (USD5.57 million) and work should actively start in April and take about two years. We are also setting up artisanal villages for craft people, one in Montego Bay, one in Trelawny, and one in Negril. There is currently one in Falmouth. This will be a large attraction, and people will produce artisanal Jamaican products. The craft village in Falmouth was built at a cost of JMD500 million (USD3.98 million) and we are working with the port authority on that. In 2018, we hope to start one in Ocho Rios and in Montego Bay.