‘Tourism is not for a selected few’ –Bartlett
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that while Jamaica readies itself for the winter tourist season, a thought should also be spared for the "little man" who oftentimes feels left out.
According to Bartlett, the perception sometimes is just as important as the reality, and the onus is now on the ministry and its tourism partners to prove by way of action that the smaller players also have an important stake in the future of the sector.
"We have to make sure everybody understands that tourism is inclusive and is not for a select few," said Bartlett. "The little man has as much right as the big man and should be given every chance to get his share of the pie."
Bartlett, who toured a number of hotels in both Ocho Rios and Montego Bay last Friday, added that tourism bosses and other influential stakeholders have an obligation to ensure that staff morale remains high and workers are treated with respect.
He pointed to statistics which show that tourism globally is controlled mostly by the smaller players, noting that the industry has always been "for the people and by the people".
"There is a tendency to ignore those who are perceived to be at the bottom of the chain," said Bartlett.
"This is a foolish thing to do, as in doing so, we can lose track of the true unsung heroes. We can lose track of the persons who are constantly in the line of fire ... day in ... day out ... the ones who are in daily contact with the guests."
Critical first impression
Bartlett said it is now a truism which is universally accepted that those who come in first contact with visitors are usually the ones who create that critical first impression of the host country.
"Our immigration and customs officers, our redcap porters, our ground transportation operators, the people at the front desks ... the waiters, the housekeepers and the bartenders; these are the people who are the first point of contact and also the ones who interact daily with the guests. These people play a very important role that can make or break a vacation experience."
The tourism minister stated that he will continue to make visits to other properties and attractions to meet and interact with staff, giving them the assurance that their work is greatly appreciated and that they are a big reason why the sector is doing so well at the moment.
Striving for excellence
"Our tourism workers, even those at the bottom of the food chain, must be credited for whatever growth the industry is now seeing.
"As we continue to strive for excellence, we will do everything we can to ensure that the workers are adequately taken care of, including the implementation of pension schemes and assistance with housing," said Bartlett.
He argued that tourism was too lucrative an industry where some people can hardly make ends meet and are hard-pressed to compete with the bigger players.
"We have to start thinking of ways to capitalise on the numerous opportunities that are becoming available," he said. "For example, we have nearly 15,000 rooms going up over the next five years. These are a lot of mouths to be fed and the food will have to come from somewhere. Now this is a great opportunity for our farmers ... an opportunity for them to step up to the plate and provide both the quality and the quantity to meet this demand."