The Tourism Linkages Network staged another highly successful “Christmas in July” trade show yesterday (July 19) in Jamaica, which saw a large turnout of enthusiastic patrons to view and purchase locally produced craft, gifts and souvenirs. Some 115 local producers took part in the one-day trade show at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston under the theme “Tropical Wonderland”. The initiative encourages the purchase of authentic local products by stakeholders in the hospitality sector and corporate Jamaica looking for gifts for clients and staff.
Giving the main address, Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) Executive Director Dr. Carey Wallace said, “While we will always welcome foreign-direct and local entrepreneurial investment in tourism, our aim is to see Jamaican Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) take ownership of the service side, producing the sheets and pillow cases, the beds and chairs and the paintings on the walls.”
Dr. Wallace said this was why TEF has made J$1 billion available to the SMTE sector through the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank for a revolving loan scheme “at the lowest rate of interest you will ever get locally” which allows businesses to upgrade their operations.
He noted that, to date, of the one billion dollars, EXIM Bank has approved more than $663.96 million in loan requests and $470 million distributed to borrowers. Currently, loan applications totaling $248.5 million are being processed.
In his address, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, said, “We cannot any longer afford to give lip service to linkages.”
The Minister said, however, “In as much as we have the problems we must recognize and give thanks for the opportunities and for those who are courageous enough to provide leadership.” He commended hoteliers Adam Stewart, Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council, and his father Gordon “Butch” Stewart for buying local produce and supporting local farmers. Last year, the Sandals chain consumed in their hotels 5.4 million pounds of produce and of that 4.9 million pounds of produce was purchased in Jamaica from local farmers.
Minister Shaw said he would be going on a crusade along with Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett to ensure that Jamaica’s hotels from near and far, including the Spanish hotel chains, include locally manufactured products in their vertical integration model.
For this year’s Christmas in July tradeshow there were several new attractions to enhance the experience of both buyers and suppliers, including an Artisan Village, an interactive space where artisans showed their skills by producing products on site for display.
The annual event is a collaborative effort of the Tourism Linkages Network, a division of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), and its partners: the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).