Junior Minister of Tourism, Christopher Morgan (Ministry of Tourism)

It was not a great love for tourism which motivated 17-year-old Christopher Morgan to enter the 2012 Ministry of Tourism Speech Competition.?? According to him, it was his ego more than anything else.

The event, which is used as a catalyst to sensitise young people about the sector, had seen participation from Christopher’s friends, family and Harrison College school mates; but the number one spot had eluded them all.

During an environment month nature walk held at Harrison’s Cave last month, Christopher elaborated on his motivation.?? He explained that: "This particular competition was the only one my school had never won.?? My friends, even a relative of mine, participated…it was more about trying to see if I could break that trend.?? I did it in their honour," he revealed.

Reminiscing on his preparation for the event, the Tourism Junior Minister spoke about the sensitisation tours which were held at Naniki’s Lush Life Resort and St. Nicholas Abbey. He noted that while this allowed the participants to meet, he was unable to glean much because they were quite reserved – a trait which made Christopher quite wary. "Most of them were so quiet – I don’t like quiet participants, those are the ones you have to worry about.?? So, it was slightly nerve wrecking, wondering ???how am I going to win this thing?’" he said.

However, his fears were not limited to the competitors.?? He divulged that, initially, he was unsure how to approach the topic of cultural heritage tourism, a concept which was relatively new for him. Christopher admitted that at some points he doubted whether he would even make it to presentation day; but his mother convinced him that he was up to the task.

"It was not easy, and writing the speech was hard because…if I don’t feel comfortable with it, I’m going to change it…" he declared, adding that by the day of the event, he had changed again what should have been his final speech.

When that day in January finally arrived and Christopher introduced himself, he announced to his fellow competitors, the judges and audience that winning would be a wonderful birthday gift – and his wish was granted.?? However, he admitted that he was not prepared for how much the role of Junior Minister entailed, and the wealth of experiences it would offer.

Retired geologist, Leslie Barker, held the attention of those who headed to Harrison’s cave for the Environment Month walk. (Ministry of Tourism)

"[The competition] was a learning experience.?? The things that I have seen, that I have done…I [have] walked from Bathsheba to Bath, St. John; I went to the Prime Minister’s reception; I did the Freedom Footprints slave route tour…You attend all these functions, but before you can attend them, you have to know what they are about.??

"So, I’m consistently learning more about Barbados and the actual tourism product.?? I would definitely encourage anyone to enter competition – even if you’re not interested in tourism, I guarantee that after the competition, especially if you win, you have no choice but to be interested, because you learn so much," he assured, adding that anyone who was interested in competing needed to be up-to-date on current affairs.

Although the Junior Minister was not passionate about the industry prior to entering the competition, he has become an advocate for tourism, and fully embraces his role as a youth representative for the Ministry.??

Christopher also revealed that "[I was] even contemplating changing my career path slightly, to see if I can fit tourism in or at least be a part of the tourism industry, because I’m more interested in law and theatre.?? So, I’m trying to see what I can do in those two areas to enhance Barbados’ tourism product in the future," he said.

People came out in their numbers for the morning walk at Harrison’s Cave. (Ministry of Tourism)

The Junior Minister emphasised the importance of protecting Barbados’ environmental and cultural assets in his winning speech, and explained that he was heartened by the growing interest in local heritage, thereby making it more visible.?? He acknowledged that Barbados had a vibrant industry and the current focus on cultural heritage would usher in a new era of tourism.?? He added, however, that he hoped Barbados would seek to expand the industry one niche at a time, to ensure that each could be developed to its full potential.

As far as awareness among his peers is concerned, Christopher revealed that they were as unacquainted with tourism as he once was, and were unfamiliar with the career options that existed.

"I can guarantee you that they don’t understand the value of the product, because I did not fully understand that fully myself, until I became Junior Minister of Tourism.?? I think it’s because [even with] the catch phrase ???tourism is our business’…we don’t see exactly how it becomes our business.

"I think there needs to be more programmes in schools…[to] give children living examples…they’re not made to understand the direct link… we have to spoon feed them?? because they need to know how important it is, that the tourism industry contributes to almost every aspect of our daily lives.?? And, I did not fully understand that until now," he said.??

Christopher also stated that while he believes that other sectors need to be developed because tourism cannot sustain us indefinitely, Barbadians should acknowledge that, at present, it is a crucial sector for Barbados.??

The Junior Minister noted that there were more experiences for him to look forward to during his tenure, namely his internship with the Barbados Tourism Authority and representing the country at the Regional Tourism Youth Congress in St. Kitts.?? But, he said, the entire year would be a special one, filled with "life changing experiences…This opportunity is once in a lifetime."


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