Secondary and tertiary level students from across the island received well-needed information on the many opportunities available in the tourism sector.
They were participants in this year’s staging of the Tourism Awareness Week Youth Forum, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James on Wednesday (September 28).
Delegations from some 17 tourism action clubs from schools islandwide gathered for the occasion, supported by a number of industry stakeholders for an interactive event in which they held sway in one of three panel discussions, voicing their thoughts on: “The Tourism We Want: Youth Response.”
The Youth Forum was organized as part of a series of activities to celebrate Tourism Awareness Week (TAW) 2022, which runs from September 25 – October 1. Many of the students voiced their support for tourism and have indicated their desire to become more involved in the process of – “Rethinking Tourism,” which is the theme for the week.
The very outspoken and insightful panellists at the forum included Junior Minister of Tourism, Sanecia Taylor; winner of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tourism’ essay competition, Theondra Hamilton and cecretary of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Tourism Society, Britanie Hanson with Xavier McFarlane as moderator.
Panel discussions and topic areas
The panel discussions explored: “Opportunities for Non-Traditional Careers in the Tourist Industry” with Carolyn McDonald-Riley, director of the Tourism Linkages Network, and entrepreneur Ashley Rousseau, moderated by Joel Nomdarkham and “New Vision: Adapting to Change while Remaining Authentic” with presentations by Kris DaCosta, JTB Digital Marketing Manager; Fabian Brown, Director, Internal Organization and Corporate Social Responsibility, Bahia Principe and Tourism Entrepreneur and popular recording artiste, Jeffrey ‘Agent Sasco’ Campbell.
With a number of suggestions being raised by the young people, Dr Carey Wallace, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), said he was very pleased with the turnout of tourism action clubs. “I was impressed by the brilliance of the answers and their commitment to sustainable tourism,” he mused, underscoring that it was “important to engage that generation.”
He expressed the belief that a forum of this nature served to unlock the ideas of the young people and give them greater insights into the numerous traditional and nontraditional opportunities in what has become the world’s leading industry and “can give them a good quality of life.”
Continuing, Wallace commented: “We believe that we need to have more tourism entrepreneurs coming out from among our own people, as well as more tourism managers, team members, culinary experts as there are so many opportunities.” He argued that the average Jamaican still saw tourism opportunities as a bartender or housekeeper, “not knowing that there are so many more business opportunities that the industry generates.”
Need to share success stories
His views were supported by McDonald-Riley, who stressed the need for professionals who are benefitting directly from the tourism sector to share their success stories, so that young persons can be inspired to enter areas that are profitable.
Wallace added that for an industry generating US$4.2 billion in earnings, “surely there are opportunities or us Jamaicans to be benefitting from it” and the large portion which goes into making overseas purchases, “we believe can be substituted by local products, local services and local talent.”
He underscored that TEF’s Linkages Network was working to build out local capacity in these areas “to form bridges between the productive sector and tourism.”