Try to discover the number of Caribbean citizens working in higher management roles in hospitality in the region or discover how many among them are women, and you will likely be frustrated.
It is possible that someone, somewhere has managed to discover the numbers, or research why so few Caribbean people rise to the highest levels of hotel management, but if it does exist and could be shared it would be welcome among those who believe in the transformational nature of the industry.
This is not to suggest that employment should be on anything other than merit, but to question why an industry that is now relatively mature should have, or so it appears, so many expatriates still working in management positions, particularly in the increasingly ubiquitous international chain hotels that now dominate room numbers in the region.
To be clear this is not to argue against the presence of talented expatriates, but to indicate that if the Caribbean and employers truly wants to benefit fully from the region’s premier industry, they need to do much more in a well-considered way to train, encourage and promote an able, experienced cadre of Caribbean professionals capable of managing the industry.
As with so much else in the Caribbean this needs the closer engagement of educational institutions at all levels and the willingness of teachers to understand the industry and inspire. However, it also requires all international hotel chains to provide training across their global portfolio, greater awareness by the international development agencies that fund training, and of course those already in the industry to know that a pathway to the top genuinely exists.
What is striking is that unlike tourism – there are some notable exceptions – almost all other large private or shareholder owned enterprises in the region now have able Caribbean men and significantly less women running them. Unlike their predecessors, this generation of Caribbean senior executives usually have higher degrees in management, have worked overseas and represent a significant part of the future capacity of the region to achieve positive corporate and national outcomes.
For this reason, it was heartening to see the University of the West Indies hold a ground-breaking ceremony for a new facility on its Western Campus in Montego Bay which, the Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Mona campus, Professor Dale Webber, says will offer studies in tourism within a world-class school of management among other disciplines.
Hopefully this will mean that when it comes to tourism that the UWI will not only amalgamate all tourism studies there but as Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, has suggested, give serious thought to the regional role a faculty of tourism might play in delivering a greater number of tourism professionals able eventually to manage and provide all of the skills the industry needs.
In his remarks at the ground-breaking, Jamaica’s Tourism Minister noted that there was much more to do when it comes to developing the region’s expertise in tourism.
Speaking specifically about the challenge of developing individuals’ ability to take advantage of the emerging opportunities that exist, he made clear that at present many of the opportunities the industry offers those from the region require low skill levels and offer limited prospects for economic mobility.
This he suggested needed to change as the industry, the nature of the services it provides, and visitor demand is no longer as it was in the past. The global tourism market, he said “is becoming increasingly differentiated and segmented, and its continued growth in the region will depend on having the right people with the right skills”.
What is evident in the industry in the region and internationally is that a very different group of skills are now required to respond to changing lifestyles and consumer demand, not least in relation to the use of artificial intelligence in hotel management and a data-driven approach to marketing. Likewise, there is a pressing need for wider competencies in foreign languages and the creation of a research capacity able to analyse trends and to predict future patterns and trends in tourism.
Recently the World Travel and Tourism Council pointed out that human capital shortages in the hospitality sector are growing globally. This suggests that this is just the moment when the industry, including the international hotel chains, and the Caribbean’s universities and training academies should be focussing on helping develop the future skills that will enable individuals in the region to be able to progress to the highest positions.
If the Caribbean is to benefit fully from its hospitality industry and product it needs to do much more to ensure its citizens are equipped with modern managerial skills so that many more of tourism’s top jobs are occupied by the men and women of the region.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at
Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org
3 April 2019
The views and opinions expressed in the Business of Tourism are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Caribbean Council.