Last updated: 08:00 PM ET, Mon July 20 2015

Tourism Enhancement Fund Driving Jamaica Tourism Growth

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | July 20, 2015

Tourism Enhancement Fund Driving Jamaica Tourism Growth

PHOTO: TEF’s $2.82 million Falmouth Streetscape Improvement Project includes development of historic Water Square. (Photo by Brian Major)

Months after recording its second consecutive year of more than two million tourist arrivals, Jamaica officials are crediting the country’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which this year celebrates a decade in operation, with revitalizing Jamaican tourism and public infrastructure.

Last year Jamaica hosted 2,080,181 overnight visitors, a 3.5 percent increase of over the 2,008,004 overnight visitors the country hosted in 2013, reports Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s tourism minister. Jamaica’s 2014 overnight arrivals rank third among destinations tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), behind only the Dominican Republic (5.1 million visitors) and Cuba (3 million).

To date in 2015, Jamaica has recorded 756,463 arrivals, a 4.9 percent increase over 2014 and once again third behind the Dominican Republic and Cuba among CTO destinations. McNeill and other stakeholders attribute the growth in significant measure to TEF-driven improvements in roads and infrastructure, programs to restore cultural and heritage sites, and beautification projects in towns, parks, nature reserves and beaches across the island.

The program is funded through a $20 fee charged on incoming airline passengers and a $2 charge on cruise passengers. Both fees are bundled into travelers’ retail ticket charges.

In a recent interview with the government-run Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Clyde Harrison, TEF’s executive director, said agency initiatives are aimed primarily at “beautification and upgrading” of Jamaican landmarks, heritage sites and resort areas,” plus strengthening “community based” tourism, craft development and training, and “enhancing the overall experience for visitors and locals.”

The largest current TEF project is a $3.42 million “major transformation” of the Ocho Rios resort district, which includes the “full upgrading” of the city’s cruise ship terminal.

Cruise ship arrivals at the Ocho Rios port, once Jamaica’s busiest, have declined in the years following the 2011 completion of a major news cruise port in Falmouth. Located equidistant to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, another major resort town, the Falmouth facility quickly emerged as Jamaica’s top-drawing facility soon after its debut.

Renovation of Ocho Rios’ cruise terminal was completed in October and included rehabilitation of the existing terminal building and an upgrade and expansion of the terminal parking area. Work continues including a reconstruction of Ocho Rios’ Turtle River Road between the ship pier and Main Street.

TEF has also financed rehabilitation work at the Milk River Bath in Clarendon and beautification of major parks in the Black River and Mandeville regions. The agency is in the process of planning significant upgrades in Negril, another major Jamaican resort town. The work will include creation of “a dual pathway for walking and riding with the proper ambiance, lighting and landscaping,” along Norman Manley Boulevard.

TEF’s development and preservation of historic Jamaican sites include the beautification and rehabilitation sites around the town of Falmouth's adjoining cruise ship facility.

TEF’s $2.82 million Falmouth Streetscape Improvement Project will include “aesthetic and structural improvement to roads and lanes in Water Square, the center of Falmouth life during the town’s 18th-century period as a leading sugar-producing commercial center for England. Falmouth remains one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved Georgian towns, with numerous historic buildings and structures.

“We will be looking at the actual town in terms of its authentic nature and work at maintaining its historical integrity,” Harrison said. “We will be working on the drainage system, and resurfacing areas, in order to enhance the ambiance in the town.”

TEF’s initiatives also encompass security, including marine patrols in Falmouth, Ocho Rios, Negril and Montego Bay. The agency’s National Beach Development Program provides new facilities and free access to public beaches, while another program is upgrading of rest stops across the island, enhancing road travel “for Jamaicans and visitors alike,” said Harrison.

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