The economic impact of the pandemic has hit Jamaica particularly hard due to its reliance on tourism, which accounts for around a third of our GDP (directly and indirectly). Although the country is now open to tourists, the downturn in numbers and the restrictions that have been necessary to protect public health continue to impact tourism heavily. Small businesses that serve that tourism market, such as gift shops, cafes and bars, excursion providers, craft-makers and sellers and so on, are no exception. These businesses are a vital part of our economy, providing income and jobs for thousands of individuals, but for many, the past year has been an exceptionally challenging time.
In recognition of the importance of this sector and the entrepreneurs that drive it, we set up a project with the TUI Care Foundation called Big Up Small Business in 2019 that aims to support small businesses to access the tourism market. When the pandemic hit in 2020, like many organisations, we had to put our plans on hold for several months and during that time the landscape for small tourism businesses changed dramatically. Now in 2021, with our project back up and running, we feel that our aims to support small businesses are more important than ever. Our focus over the coming months will be on business recovery during and beyond the current crisis, so that small businesses can fulfil their vital role as a catalyst of economic recovery and growth.
We are creating a series of resources and training opportunities for small businesses to support recovery. This week, as a first step, we have launched a guide to the finance schemes available to small tourism businesses. Even in more normal times, small-business owners can often struggle to access the capital they need to get started and grow, but with access to suitable finance, they can invest in training, modernise IT systems, invest in new equipment, refurbish space, hire new people, invest in marketing and more.
In this time of crisis, such schemes may be vital to business survival and we hope that this guide will help business owners to access the relevant information when they need it. The guide includes a quick reference table at the beginning, outlining the different schemes available, followed by more detailed information on each scheme, the terms offered, who is eligible and how to apply. Go to www.bigupsmallbusiness.org to download your copy.