As the Caribbean gets ready for what is expected to be a bumper tourism season this winter, stakeholders are advised to strengthen efforts to incorporate more young people in the bread-and-butter sector.
Thanks to the efforts of regional tourism organizations such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association; government ministries and departments; and private sector players across the region, more young people are looking at tourism for first choice career opportunities rather than a final course of action.
However, targeted education about tourism’s contribution to the socioeconomic development of the Caribbean is still needed, and continued training is necessary to develop exceptional service standards across every corner of our Caribbean archipelago.
The recent agreement between Sandals Resorts International, Florida International University and The University of the West Indies to jointly establish The Gordon “Butch” Stewart International School of Hospitality and Tourism will no doubt go a long way to meeting these essential education goals.
Similarly, the GEMS Hospitality School, an initiative of the GEMS Foundation in Dominica, affords young people interested in the hospitality sector the opportunity to gain practical skills. A key objective is to develop a generation of young people who are passionate about working in the tourism industry and who understand its importance to Dominica.
Smart tourism leaders understand that the strategic inclusion of youth in the policy sectors can produce strategies to open their destinations to the immense power of youth and student travel, which represents a significant component of international arrivals and generates hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism receipts worldwide, according to the WYSE Travel Federation.
Young visitors often return with family and friends and, later on, may return with their own families. So not only is youth tourism an excellent way of spreading the tourism benefits across a wider population, but it is also a way of developing long-term arrivals and expenditures.
Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport Ian Gooding-Edghill was on the right track when he recently delivered a clear message about the importance of integrating young people in the sector now to help ensure future success and sustainability.
He was also on point when he called for the development of a mechanism for Caribbean ministries of tourism to work with youth to develop an innovation lab focused on expanding innovation in tourism through technology, an area in which youth are quite knowledgeable.
In the simple yet wise words of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa: “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”
An investment in the next generation, therefore, makes good sense.