Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addresses the Schools Tourism Education Programme launch this morning at the Hilton Barbados. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

The phrase ???and a little child shall lead them’ has been taken to heart by representatives of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), developers of the Schools Tourism Education Programme (STEP), which was launched this morning at the Hilton Barbados.

Described as a trailblazing initiative by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, STEP will see students and teachers at 15 primary and secondary schools immersed in industry-related activities.?? The Minister observed that this was a viable investment which would ensure a sustainable future for tourism.

"There is certainly a void in the understanding of the tourism industry…therefore, a programme like this [one] that goes into the schools is, in my view, not only desirable but essential," Mr. Sealy remarked, while offering his full support to the stakeholders – hotels, tour operators and businesses – who will serve as contributors to the venture.?? He added: "If we are going to address the social and economic advancement of the country, it is critical that we continue to reinforce the importance of tourism…"

While noting that the project concept was not "entirely new" – namely, with tourism studies part of the social studies syllabus – the Tourism Minister said STEP’s goal to "ensure that even the smallest child in Barbados can start to feel that they are a part of the industry" was one which would serve the sector and the country well.

He lauded the leadership of the BHTA for proposing the project and expressed his appreciation to the private sector for contributing to the effort despite the current challenging financial times.?? While the project’s focus was on students, Minister Sealy highlighted the fact that their participation would result in a domino effect, thereby facilitating tourism awareness in the community.??

"The old statement that it all starts with our children should be pursued with renewed vigour.?? Inherent in this paradigm is the simple premise that with the greater involvement of children comes the involvement of their parents, friends, community and ultimately, the general society.

Gradually, as in many other endeavours, attitudes will change and this can only redound to the benefit of all who call Barbados home," the Minister offered.??

He also asserted that tourism’s continued success was dependent on how well the importance of the sector was communicated to tomorrow’s industry professionals. He said:?? "Ensuring the sustainability of the industry is, therefore, predicated both on the transmission, to the next generation, of the values on which our country has been built and demonstrating the fact that there are excellent opportunities within the industry which is the lifeblood of our country. These opportunities allow businesses to be established, to grow and to prosper while providing employment for thousands of Barbadians."

BHTA President, Colin Jordan, encouraged comments and suggestions for the programme as it goes through the pilot phase, stating that "neither Barbados nor tourism has the luxury of being able to wait for a perfect programme".?? He revealed that the STEP pilot programme would be reviewed at the end of the first and second school terms, while at the end of term three – June 2012 – all teachers and stakeholders would participate in a comprehensive evaluation session.

Although the project has focused on Barbados’ younger citizens, Mr. Jordan made it clear that all Barbadians should embrace the power and purpose of the industry. "…[Tourism is] key to our country’s foreign exchange earnings and maintaining our standard of living…to employment in varied disciplines and the building of rewarding careers…

"To developing our sister industries of agriculture, manufacturing, construction and international business…tourism is key to bringing the economy and society together…The Schools Tourism Education Programme promises to be an eloquent demonstration of the reality that tourism is key," the BHTA President emphasised.??

The STEP initiative will feature various components including a social studies teacher immersion programme, a national career showcase, teacher and student workbooks and DVDs and leaflets which provide information on careers in tourism.


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