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Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the competitiveness of a tourism destination requires an effective human capital management plan, where the workforce becomes the primary focus.

In an interview with JIS News, Mr. Bartlett, who is currently on official business overseas, said it is against this background that the Tourism Ministry has established the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) as the primary platform to build a quality tourism workforce that can access attractive jobs that offer decent work, social protection, and upward social mobility.

This process, Mr. Bartlett said, starts from secondary schools where the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Youth on a training and certification programme for tertiary and secondary-school students as part of Government’s Human Capital Development strategy “to ensure the sustainable development of tourism”.

“The Hospitality and Tourism Management Programme (HTMP) was developed by industry experts and members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association as the official industry-recognised curriculum to prepare students for roles in the hotel industry and beyond and is certified through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI),” the Tourism Minister pointed out.

“And, as we ‘Build Forward Stronger’ coming out of the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic through the application of our Blue Ocean Strategy, the focus is on attracting a diverse set of visitors who want a uniquely Jamaican experience, leveraging local linkages for the supplies and tourism experiences, and building a future that is even more resilient, safe and sustainable,” she added.

This, Minister Bartlett added, will be achieved by focusing on building strong local capacity with a relentless focus on quality, noting that the JCTI continues to play a critical role in facilitating certification of tourism workers.

He said that the onset of the pandemic resulted in most of the JCTI certification programmes being offered online – AHLEI courses in Certified Hospitality Supervisor/Certified Spa Supervisor, Customer Service Gold, Certified Restaurant Server and ServSafe – mostly free of charge.

“The JCTI has also been offering middle management certification programmes covering Certified Food and Beverage Executive (CFBE), Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive (CHHE), Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT), and Certified Hotel Concierge (CHC),” the Minister noted.

“I am informed that, currently, the latest cohort of 55 chefs is waiting to be certified,” he added.

Mr. Bartlett said that in the meantime, the tourism industry, despite the COVID-19 constraints, has been recovering rapidly, ending 2021 with an excellent showing of 1.6 million visitors and more than US$2 billion in earnings.

“We continue to mobilise investments in key aspects of our tourism product to diversify our offerings and strengthen competitiveness,” the Minister pointed out.

“New and existing investors are set to spend close to US$2 billion over the next two years, which will result in the addition of some 7,500 new rooms and more than 20,000 part-time and full-time jobs. So, we must have an equipped and skills-ready workforce for this growth and expansion,” Mr. Bartlett said.

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