The manager of a five-star hotel in the Caribbean says that if Vincentian youth are to position themselves as major players in the tourism industry, they “must be ready to make sure that you are equipped with the skill sets and the training to be influential players.
“You must ensure that we have a seat at the table when decisions are made about our product positioning, and we must be ready to manage and lead at the highest levels of both the tourism and hospitality sectors of the industry.”
This was the view of hotel and tourism executive Rachel Browne, an Antigua-based Vincentian who manages and co-owns Hermitage Bay in Antigua.
She told the New Democratic Party’s Youth Entrepreneur forum in Kingstown on Thursday that Vincentians must, therefore, grasp every opportunity and create opportunities for their own growth and self-development.
“You must be willing and open to new concepts and ideas, work hard, forge paths to your ultimate goals,” said Browne the keynote speaker at the forum.
The other speakers at the event were Ruth-Ann Lewis, a musician and entrepreneur, lawyer Meisha Cruickshank, Aria Laidlow, director of Programme Development, Commonwealth Youth Council and a specialist in environmental change, and St. Clair Leacock, Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown.
Browne told the youth that they must “make sure that your attitude towards work and life generally are sound and don’t ever forget that you must always exemplify a professional yet pleasant disposition.
“You may think it old-fashioned to say ‘manners and behaviour get you through the world’, but know this: those two personality traits are very significant ingredients in the tourism and hospitality businesses.”
Browne, who said she has been advised that she is one of only two female Caribbean nationals managing five-star resorts in the region, spoke of the disappointment and anger she felt after being fired from her first job at a bank after just three months.
Before becoming general manager and co-owner at Hermitage Bay, the Bishop’s College graduate worked at other five-star properties including Palm Island in the Southern Grenadines where she served as Island Manager.
She was also head of the Sales and Marketing efforts for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Browne encouraged persons looking for work in the hotel industry to look for opportunities for formal training.
“Far too often in my role, I meet bright young talented locals who are the best at their practical skill sets, but lacking the theoretical knowledge of things such as costing a menu, doing budgets and understanding the marketing side of the business. Hence training is crucial — grasp it when it is offered, seek it where it’s available.
The mentality we must have is that of not only do we want to be the line cook — we want to be the executive chef; not only do we want to be the room attendant we want to be the executive housekeeper; not only do we want to be the front desk supervisor we want to be the head of operations; not only do we want to be the resident manager we want to be the general and we want to be owners — hold a meaningful stake in the business.”
The tourism executive said these are all attainable goals, but young people must be prepared.
“Find mentors, find courses on line at local, regional and, International institutions. Befriend people in the industry and set your plan in motion — so that when the big companies arrive with the ‘brand name’ hotels — we are in a position to say, ‘There is no need to issue that work permit for an executive chef, we have the talent and skill sets here to choose from.’”