Montego Bay Convention Centre to double as hotel school
The Jamaican Government's plan to develop a hotel that is to serve as a hospitality school for real time training won't get off the ground right away, although Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has said lands are being eyed in Montego Bay for the development.
Bartlett said the tourism ministry is still searching for a joint venture partner for the hotel development, but he also indicated the project that won't hold back the launch of the school.
Courses, he said, are now expected to roll out this September, which is about a year ahead of the initial start dates announced.
The tourism minister said the Montego Bay Convention Centre will be the initial home of the teaching programme, and when the hotel is developed, both venues will be incorporated in the curriculum. The hotel is to be built in proximity to the convention centre at Rose Hall.
The convention centre was developed by the Urban Development Corporation with the backing of the Chinese government. However, last September, a release from the state's press unit, JIS News, that quoted Bartlett, said Cabinet had approved the ownership transfer of the convention centre from UDC to the ministries of finance and tourism.
The article provided no details of the transaction, including what if any money the ministries paid over to UDC and whether the deal involved a transfer of debt.
The Ministry of Tourism was named as the operator of the hotel and would be responsible for its marketing. The UDC and the tourism ministry are yet to respond to queries on the structure of the transfer.
Still, Bartlett told Gleaner Business that his ministry's control of the convention centre means he will be able to carve away a good portion of the $400 million project funds initially earmarked for the hotel school, which is to be called the Jamaica Centre for Tourism and Innovation. The project will be cheaper to execute, he said.
The school aims to collaborate with international experts.
"Yes, we will definitely go for September," said Bartlett, in reference to the start date for the first cohort of students. But he noted that the linkages with international institutions are still being finalised and that Cabinet also has to sign off on the programme.
On Tuesday, a committee established to spearhead the development of the hotel school met for the first time. Its members include Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson; Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid, and Professor Emeritus of Management and Tourism Studies, George Washington University, Donald Hawkins; Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Prof Alvin Wint; Senior Programme Officer and Senior Lecturer at UWI, Dr Carolyn Hayle; Dr Phillip Brown, Principal of the Sandals Corporate University; Head of the Department of Government at UWI, Dr Lloyd Waller; Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, Danny Roberts; President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Omar Robinson; Executive Director of the JHTA, Camille Needham and Coordinator of the Hotel School and Artisan Villages, Carol Rose Brown.
Hawkins is also leading a team charged with producing a business plan that will serve as the official guide for the initiative, Bartlett said.
The convention centre complex does not offer accommodation. General manager Dittie Guise says the operations of the hotel school will fit easily into the facility's operations.
HAPPY FOR CENTRE
"Yes, we're happy to have it," Guise said. "We have the space; and the facilities, including our kitchen, can accommodate the institute. In addition, we have a very qualified executive in Chef Randie who is ready to take on the programme," Guise said.
Some of the meeting rooms will double as classrooms, she added.
Bartlett says the institute will offer a practical curriculum and will complement the current hospitality programmes at the country's tertiary institutions. He says it will effectively operate like a 'finishing school' that offers globally accepted certification.
"In essence, it will operate like the Norman Manley Law School, which provides the requisite accreditation for lawyers across the region, as the centre will provide TedQual certification," the tourism minister said. TedQual is the accreditation of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)