By Garwin Davis
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says the competitiveness of a tourism destination requires an effective human capital management plan, where the workforce becomes the primary focus.
In an interview with JIS News, Bartlett, who is currently on official business overseas, said it is against this background that the tourism ministry has established the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) as the primary platform to build a quality tourism workforce that can access attractive jobs that offer decent work, social protection, and upward social mobility.
This process, Bartlett said, starts from secondary schools where the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Youth on a training and certification programme for tertiary and secondary-school students as part of government’s human capital development strategy “to ensure the sustainable development of tourism”.
“The Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme (HTMP) was developed by industry experts and members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association as the official industry-recognised curriculum to prepare students for roles in the hotel industry and beyond and is certified through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI),” the tourism minister pointed out.
“And, as we ‘Build Forward Stronger’ coming out of the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic through the application of our Blue Ocean Strategy, the focus is on attracting a diverse set of visitors who want a uniquely Jamaican experience, leveraging local linkages for the supplies and tourism experiences, and building a future that is even more resilient, safe and sustainable,” she added.
This, minister Bartlett added, will be achieved by focusing on building strong local capacity with a relentless focus on quality, noting that the JCTI continues to play a critical role in facilitating certification of tourism workers.
He said that the onset of the pandemic resulted in most of the JCTI certification programmes being offered online – AHLEI courses in Certified Hospitality Supervisor/Certified Spa Supervisor, Customer Service Gold, Certified Restaurant Server and ServSafe – mostly free of charge.
“The JCTI has also been offering middle management certification programmes covering Certified Food and Beverage Executive (CFBE), Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive (CHHE), Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT), and Certified Hotel Concierge (CHC),” the minister noted.
“I am informed that, currently, the latest cohort of 55 chefs is waiting to be certified,” he added. “The tourism industry, despite the COVID-19 constraints, has been recovering rapidly, ending 2021 with an excellent showing of 1.6 million visitors and more than US$2 billion in earnings. We continue to mobilise investments in key aspects of our tourism product to diversify our offerings and strengthen competitiveness,” the Minister pointed out. “New and existing investors are set to spend close to US$2 billion over the next two years, which will result in the addition of some 7,500 new rooms and more than 20,000 part-time and full-time jobs. So, we must have an equipped and skills-ready workforce for this growth and expansion,” he said.
Meanwhile, tourism stakeholders and other business interests are appealing to Jamaicans to get vaccinated, noting that it is the only proven strategy to counter the onslaught of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. The stakeholders including hoteliers, attraction owners, craft traders, duty-free merchants and transport operators, said that it has become clear that nothing less than a concerted effort and “collective responsibility” will get Jamaica over the COVID-19 hump and a fighting chance for an early economic rebound.
“Our prime minister [Andrew Holness] has made it clear that it is up to us as a country to determine how we are going to curtail this pandemic… how responsible we are going to be as a nation… as a people,” explained chairman of the island’s Resilient Corridors Committee, John Byles.
“The government has painstakingly put together a comprehensive public education programme, including health and safety guidelines, relating to the coronavirus since 2020 when it invaded our shores. It is clear as day that the best counterstrategy to COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and follow the protocols.”
On Sunday (January 9), Holness reiterated at a press conference to the nation that there will be no further lockdown of the country, a position he had announced more than two months ago.
“I know there is great tension in the air, and what it says to me is that people are not listening to what I have said. I have been very clear in Parliament, very clear, absolutely gone overboard to say that we are not going back to lockdowns, so be calm,” Holness said. “I have said what the [containment] strategy is. It is now in your hands. Go and take the vaccine. That is the strategy.”
For Mayor of Falmouth, Councillor Colin Gager, it is now a matter of doing what’s right to protect lives and for the country’s economy to function.
“There’s a delicate balance in how we go forward, and as a nation we [the citizens] have to do our part,” he noted. “It is clear COVID is not going anywhere anytime soon and so we cannot drop our guards… not after all the sacrifices we have made. I continue to urge persons to go and get vaccinated.”
For Ravi Daswani, Owner of the Royal Shop chain of Duty-Free stores, prime minister Holness’ position is not only responsible but is also in line with the approach being taken by powerful international countries, including Jamaica’s main source markets – the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
“We have to be responsible and realise what is at stake as we all continue to come to terms with this virus [pandemic], which might be with us for quite some time,” he noted.
President of the Pineapple Craft Market, Ocho Rios, Clare Bruce, said she has long been “preaching” to her membership that there are really “no shortcuts” when it comes to dealing with the virus.
“To their everlasting credit we are now fully, 100 percent, vaccinated and continue to follow all the health guidelines dictated by the ministry of health and Wellness and also the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo),” Bruce told JIS News.
“What is also clear is that travellers are more inclined to want to visit countries with a high vaccination rate and where they will feel safe. It’s all up to us how we are going to deal with this pandemic.”