By Ray Chickrie and Henry Mac Donald
PARAMARIBO, Suriname — The tourism industry combined with travel is the second-largest global industry after oil and gas. It provides more than 300 million jobs globally and is by far the most dynamic business of the international economy. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and The World Trade Organization (WTO), tourism provides 10 percent of global employment, which generates almost 12 percent of global GDP.
Compared to other sectors, the tourism industry is in an upward mode and the Guianas tourism leaders in the public and private sector are welcoming the new industry as a fresh and welcoming job-provider. The tourism industry does not simply offer employment, it provides good-paying jobs, making it a significant source for skilled and unskilled occupation in the Guianas. It offers varying degrees of skills and allows for quick entry into the workforce by women, youth, and migrant workers. Entrepreneurs are also popping up in various tourism-related industries such as manufacturing, fashion, agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries.
Concerning the huge potential of Community-Based Tourism (CBT) in the Guianas it is very important that Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives are being instigated. Social dialogue about the sector is needed in all three countries so that sustainable forms of tourism with a strong poverty reduction potential can be introduced. Good practices that are already available in the Guianas regarding CBT development should be shared with each other.
The new and challenging work environment in the ecotourism industry requires social dialogue in the workplace. Where such processes are formalized, they create tangible opportunities for constructive collaboration within key players in the hotel, hostel, and boutique-hotel sector.
Role of governments
According to former UN ambassador, Henry Mac Donald of Suriname: “Governments have the important role to lead, facilitate and empower the sector by aiding in introduction of CBT to the communities and in particular in the interior. This is a fundamental prerequisite since, in order to become an attractive destination for tourists, legislation needs to be put in place. Structures need to be introduced and implemented and most importantly a wide range of services including infrastructure, health, education, and effective destination marketing are necessary. Direct financial investments by governments in hotel and lodging facilities or even transportation services, besides country or destination marketing, are not immediately needed.
The private and the business sector will look for and find capital to invest in the building accommodations and entertainment facilities, but “guidance” and “enablement” should be the two strategic principals of governmental Leadership.
Hotels, restaurants, tour operators and transportation companies have a huge potential to reduce poverty in the Guianas. Partnerships between the public and the private sectors should, therefore, be enhanced to ensure more effective coordination, which will lead to more benefits for local and rural communities.
Education is just like in many other industries a fundamental provision to move the sector fast and effectively forward. Workers, but mainly those in the interior and rural areas tend to have limited professional qualifications. The need for enhanced training and education, including health-related coaching and guidance, should become more evident.
Also, technology and electronic accessibility should not be forgotten since, the more demanding tourist need to have his or her wireless equipment at hand, even when deep in the rainforest. Consequently, a more effective employee/customer relationship, as well as good knowledge about environmental issues are a prerequisite. In any case, competitiveness and productivity in the industry depend on skills, competence, devotion, commitment and the passion of employees.
Motivated and passioned personnel is the ultimate key to success. Therefore, hotel and lodge managers, as well as tour operators and transportation companies, need to inspire their staff to go the extra mile for their customers. As a matter of fact, workers need to feel like they are an intrinsic part of the business and are not just there to secure a salary at the end of the week or month. This sentiment of “part-ownership” will enhance the so needed soft skills, such as courtesy, politeness, language, discipline, conscientiousness, self-confidence, adaptability, creativity and punctuality. All these can be enhanced directly by robust training, but the “part-ownership” passion will stimulate these naturally.