JIS News

With an enviable record of dedication and commitment to tourism in Jamaica and a passion for excellence at the workplace, Manager of the Sandals Montego Bay Hotel, Horace Peterkin, has been handed the baton of leadership of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) by outgoing president Godfrey Dyer.
He speaks with deep optimism for the industry during a JIS News interview. “The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association represents the number one industry and one of the most important offices in the country. It represents a number of stakeholders both locally and internationally and in fact represents about half of the economic activity in Jamaica – over 50 per cent of the foreign exchange and 25 per cent of the labour force,” he explains.
Mr. Peterkin further points out, “so it is vitally important and the president will have to fight to ensure that the organization is respected and truly serves the needs of all the members. Needs which involve running successful operations, to be able to make a profit on their operations, creating a positive image for the destinations, creating as much employment as possible, developing the individuals through the provisions of training opportunities so they can reach to the very top of the industry”.
He says this year will be an exciting and extremely challenging one. “I know that I am coming in at a time when things are really very critical for the industry for many reasons and I am preparing myself to meet these challenges head on,” he notes. The new JHTA President has set himself a number one objective and priority, which is to have discussions with government on the recent increase of the General Consumption Tax (GCT) in the industry from 6.25 per cent to 8.25 per cent.
He explains that changes or negotiations could only be attempted when these contracts come up for renewal. In the meantime, he continues, discounts and price cuts had to be made, especially since the September 11 attack on the United States having negatively affected business.
“We therefore cannot be cutting and at the same time adding additional cost, it just doesn’t work in the industry, because we are not the only ones selling this Caribbean warm destination vacation. So that is a challenge and we feel that even though the announcements have been made, the Minister is reasonable enough to listen to us. Our membership will be meeting soon in order to come up with one common position and a new approach as we move forward,” the JHTA President noted.
Mr. Peterkin, in alluding to the serious challenge of crime and violence and its negative effects on the industry, tells JIS News that the solutions lie in a futuristic approach.
“I believe that we can actually fight future crime by capturing the youngsters before they are attracted to a life of crime. There is a programme, which I presently do at my hotel, where youngsters are given life-long careers. This programme is for one entire year or more . we target young men and are seeking to give them skills in engineering, electrical installation, skills that they will always be able to use either in or outside the industry,” Mr. Peterkin informs.
“We have partnered with the HEART Trust/NTA, which have agreed to extend the programme to accommodate a great deal more if we are able to generate the numbers . we can do this if the over 50 thousands companies in Jamaica decide to assist by taking on or paying for five or so of these youngsters in training,” he continues, ” I would like to see us taking between 50 to 100 thousand youngsters off the streets and into a formal programme . when they graduate, they would be ready to go into the working world as professionals”.
Mr. Peterkin points out that the focus of this project would be on the inner city or the rural poor communities, with the objective of enhancing their economic base and lifting the quality of life of citizens.
“I think that is the best way for us to fight crime. It is not an immediate solution, but we are confident that it will have positive impact in the future. We will endeavour to continue supporting the police force through the various initiatives we have entered into with them but this I would like see as our major focus.
Expressing concerns about the ever increasing levels of environmental degradation, and its possible crippling effect on the industry, Mr. Peterkin tells JIS News that, “if we continue to allow the environment to be destroyed at the rate that it is going now, then in 20 years time, we are going to have a real terrible environment and maybe no tourism industry”. The new head of the JHTA is by no means a newcomer to tourism, as he has been involved in the industry for more than 30 years, having begun as a trainee manager at the then Montego Beach Hotel, where he worked for two years there.
He then moved on to formal training in hotel management at the University of the West Indies, and the University of Bahamas.
Returning to Jamaica, he was recruited by the then Sheraton Hotel in Ocho Rios as Food and Beverage Manager and was years later spotted by renowned hotelier Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, who he says saw in him great leadership potential and offered an attractive managerial position in the then growing Sandals Hotel chain.
“I have grown with the organization, which is the most exciting Caribbean tourism organization. It has been a tremendous ride and I have been groomed and guided by this great hotelier who is a total inspiration and an incredible leader for the organization, which has achieved much recognition internationally. Sandals have succeeded in widening and broadening my horizon and allowed me to do a lot of things in sharpening my skills as a hotel man. I feel that I am ready for this position”, Mr. Peterkin tells JIS News.