|Dionne Weekes (second from right) during her final duties as Junior Minister of Tourism, at the Ministry of Tourism’s Speech Competition 2012 on Monday.
One year ago, Dionne Weekes publicly voiced her opinion on the British Government’s Airline Passenger Duty and its effect on Barbados during the Ministry of Tourism’s Speech Competition, earning her the role of Junior Minister of Tourism.??
Now, one year later, ???former’ has been placed before that title, a position that offered her much experience as a member of one of this country’s crucial industries.
Delivering the Junior Minister’s Report at this year’s competition, held ??Monday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Ms. Weekes revealed that despite her apparent calm demeanour, she was quite nervous on competition day 13 months ago.?? She recalled that her anxiety further increased with the announcement of the runners up.
"Third place was announced, I was like ???ah boy’. Second place, I was like ???alright Dionne, you could just cry now, you ain’t getting nuh prize’. Then there was the first place, and my name was announced and I was indeed elated.?? And, I need to thank [the judges], for indeed deciding that I would be the person who would be Junior Minister of Tourism," she said.
Ms. Weekes expressed gratitude for being given the opportunity to experience the sector first hand, commenting that "the year I spent as Junior Minister of Tourism was…well, words cannot describe the things that I learned or the people that I met.?? It was a tenure filled with excitement, personal development and an educational journey.??
"I had an internship at Mango Bay Hotel which lasted all but three weeks, and I must say that was an eye opener. I met many people there and I learned that some things are not what they seem on the outside, that you have to be there in people’s shoes to really understand what they’re going through…," she noted, adding that the interaction with tourists proved to be a true highlight of her stint there.
Some of Ms. Weekes’ additional ministerial duties included participating in the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s State of the Industry Conference in St. Martin last September, and attending receptions held in honour of longstanding visitors to Barbados.
"I had the privilege of meeting the Prime Minister [at the event]…I spent my night speaking to many of the people who were there and I asked them what made them come back to Barbados.?? And, almost every time…I would hear the answer, ???the people’ – the fact that they were so nice, they were so warm and caring.?? And I think that should not change because if everybody is saying that, there certainly must be some truth," she stressed, while reminding Barbadians that they played an important role in luring repeat visitors.??
In expressing her gratitude to those who had supported her during her term, including Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, and Tourism Development Officer, Marsha Armstrong, she specially thanked her mother, Arlene Weekes, and Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President, Colin Jordan, who she said had offered great words of encouragement.??
"I have been the first Junior Minister ever invited to a BHTA quarterly meeting, thanks to Mr. Colin Jordan and Ms. May Hinds; and I want to say that that was indeed an interesting experience.??
I sat on a panel with past presidents of the BHTA and I engaged in conversation and I felt important…what I had to say mattered," she commented.??
Ms. Weekes is encouraging other young persons to "be aware of what is going on around you" and to become involved in the tourism industry.?? She asserted that "my tenure as Junior Minister has been a great one and I hope that the Junior Minister to come will have an even more enjoyable time than I did."
|Dionne Weekes (right) receives a parting gift of appreciation for her time as Junior Minister of Tourism from Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Shelly Carrington. (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
As a parting gift of appreciation for her year of representation, Ms. Weekes was presented with a certificate for a dinner for two, compliments of the Accra Beach Hotel.
The former Junior Minister, who represented Queen’s College during the 2010 competition, officially ended her duties yesterday when Christopher Morgan of Harrison College was named Junior Minister of Tourism 2011/2012.