Sat | Jul 4, 2020

Edmund Bartlett | Reimagining tourism through human capital development

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism
Arrivals and earnings continue to hit records with 1.7 million visitors (stopover and cruise combined) coming to our shores and spending US$1.2 billion within the first four months of 2019.
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Around the world today, tourism processes, tools, structures, systems, and actors are being radically reviewed, reorganised and remade. In other words, tourism is being reimagined. What this means is that destinations across the globe must find innovative methods to remain relevant and viable in this increasingly competitive industry.

Here in Jamaica, through strategic policy programmes and initiatives, we have been playing our part in this reimagining exercise in a bid to thrive in this space. Arrivals and earnings continue to hit records with 1.7 million visitors (stopover and cruise combined) coming to our shores and spending US$1.2 billion within the first four months of 2019, and the sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) now stands at nine per cent. Despite our continued successes, we have never been complacent and seek to improve on this record growth.

A major component in the reimagining process is our human capital development strategy. This is a critical area to develop as our people remain our most iconic attraction. They represent the driving force behind our continued success, and we recognise that to remain top of mind in the market and maintain our competitive advantage, we must build our human capital by training and certifying them so as to increase their stackable credentials. This is why we have run the gamut from high school, through tourism sector workers and now into the realm of graduate studies.

HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME

Last year, we launched the first ever Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme (HTMP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. The HTMP is a unique certification programme for high schools offered by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), which will allow students to gain entry-level qualifications in tourism as well as associate degrees in customer service and is recognised by the Jamaica Customer Service Association (JaCSA). This is a two-year programme currently offered in 33 high schools across Jamaica, with a cohort of 350 student, and will be expanded to 650 students by 2020.

JAMAICA CENTRE OF TOURISM INNOVATION

The Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) was launched in 2017 as a pathway to professional certification in the sector. Its mandate is to identify competent workers in the industry who are not certified and also graduates from tertiary institutions who have theoretical knowledge but no practical experience. This programme will allow the workers of the sector to achieve mobility in the workspace while being effectively positioned to command professional advancement.

The JCTI, which was established with local and international organisations, is also on target to train 8,000 tourism workers over the next five years.

In April of last year, over 150 persons graduated from the JCTI with AHLEI and NVQJ certification, while in November, over 300 persons received certification in tourism-related fields, including: 14 certified hospitality educators, nine certified hospitality instructor, 17 culinary tutors, 12 culinarians and pastry chefs, 20 bartender trainers, and over 200 bartenders.

In addition, we have established a programme to certify workers in the entertainment subsector of our hotels, with 26 workers already achieving certification from the inaugural Tourism Linkages Network’s DJ Capacity Enhancement Training Programme.

GRADUATE SCHOOL OF TOURISM

With the changing technologies and modalities in the global tourism industry, the focus of talent development must extend beyond traditional areas and now consider the emerging skill requirements of an increasingly differentiated and segmented tourism sector. We recognise that even though tourism is a highly labour-intensive sector, the majority of the tourism-related jobs available are deemed to require low to medium-level technical skills and tend to offer relatively limited prospects for economic mobility. Consequently, the sector may not be viewed as attractive by a large number of people seeking high-skilled jobs.

The future of tourism lies in the manipulation and exploitation of information and communications technology (ICT) capabilities such as big-data, big data analytics, blockchain technologies, the internet of things, robotics, etc. We, therefore, need to urgently capitalise on the opportunities for high-skilled employment that are being generated in the ICT-related fields in tourism.

Within this context, we continue to identify the relevant skill sets needed to fill jobs in the evolving tourism sector, with the anticipation that these skill sets will be translated into curricula that can be implemented as professional higher education programmes by tertiary institutions in Jamaica.

This is why I recently made a pitch at a function at the University of the West Indies (UWI) for the institution to establish a School of Tourism. It will specialise in emerging areas such as resilience-related studies, climate management, project management, tourism management, tourism risk management, tourism crisis management, communication management, tourism marketing and branding, monitoring and evaluation, sustainable tourism policies, and tourism entrepreneurship. UWI should have its first-ever Graduate School of Tourism established at its Western Jamaica Campus by 2020.

We are doing this level of human-capital development to not only reimagine the sector, but to influence labour market arrangements by professionalising the sector and creating a cadre of workers that are qualified, certified and can be classified. Tourism workers will now be able to attract remuneration based on their certification, and this is the surest way of securing tenure.

Building the capacity of our workers to be more innovative in this global industry is indeed the future of tourism. As we anticipate even further growth with more hotel rooms and more visitors, our workers will be the driving force in meeting these increased demands.

 

- Edmund Bartlett is the minister of tourism. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com