The suggestions and opinions were many when the Ministry of Tourism held the first in a series of Round Table Discussions last Wednesday at the University of the West Indies’ 3Ws Oval, under the theme ???Tourism Product Development: People’.

Representatives from myriad organisations of interest, including the Barbados National Standards Institution, the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados and the Barbados Employers Confederation, participated in the event, which will contribute to the creation of a White Paper on Tourism Development; a document which will be used in the creation of a Tourism Master Plan. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Andrew Cox, explained that the session was part of a series of efforts, including the recently concluded town hall meetings and youth fora, which would lend to the formulation of the Paper.

"These stakeholder sessions signal the commencement of the fourth of five phases planned for the preparation of the White Paper.?? Throughout this entire period, persons have been able to submit comments, through email and our blog, and in writing as well.?? The purpose of this meeting is to broaden the base of the comments that we’re gathering for the White Paper…we hope to focus on the key tourism issues and to see what you think is important," the Permanent Secretary explained. He also encouraged the gathering to offer their solutions to some of the important issues which affected the industry.

The resolutions offered by the attendees ranged from career advancement for persons in the tourism industry and a balanced process of job placement and work permits, and the need for the opinions of staff at all levels to be considered during decision making; to the need for an apprenticeship system for hospitality students to be part of the policy for businesses within the industry.?? Other comments focused on the development of the tourism product, the promotion of communities as tourist attractions, tours of local produce markets to increase familiarity with local foods and goods and the development of nightlife in Bridgetown.

Technical Officer at the Technical Vocational and Education Training Council, Olivia Smith, made a call for employers "to take a look at how we are managing, especially in the current business environment…invest in training, there’s funding available, don’t see people as a cost, see them as an asset, encourage training that’s in line with your organisational needs." Director of the Barbados Hospitality Institute, Bernice Critchlow-Earle, stressed that those within the industry had to bear in mind that tourism was a transient business and persons had to be open to opportunities in other countries.????

It was revealed, however, that efforts were already being made to address some of the issues mentioned. Vice President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Sue Springer, explained that the Barbados Community College, in conjunction with private and government entities, was currently developing a programme that would restructure the City’s attractions and the Barbados Tourism Authority had started to develop an initiative called ???Trails’ which embraced the existing, local attractions throughout the island.

The BHTA Vice President also gave examples of accomplished persons working within the tourism industry, both locally and abroad, to illustrate that all external elements considered, a common factor among persons who were successful in the industry was dedication.

"They wanted to achieve, they had the passion to achieve. You have to understand that if you want to be in this industry, you have to be really passionate about what you’re doing," she stressed.??

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