GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Vincentian Marika Baptiste placed second at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Regional Tourism Youth Congress held here on Thursday.
J’nae Brathwaite, of Tobago, placed first in the developmental competition designed to showcase the knowledge and presentation skills of tourism students from across the region.
At the event, participants between the ages of 14-17 years old debate on regional tourism matters to enhance tourism awareness among Caribbean youth, the CTO said.
Participants assume the role of junior ministers/commissioners of tourism, representing their respective CTO member country.
“I’m really elated,” Baptiste, a second year St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College student, told iWitness News after the congress, which took formed part of the CTO’s annual business meetings.
“It was a really good experience, especially coming to the Cayman Islands and conversing with my fellow junior ministers. It’s a really beautiful place. I’m glad I got this experience,” Baptiste said.
Baptiste was selected to represent St. Vincent and the Grenadines after she won the 2020 Lions Club St Vincent South Flow Secondary Schools’ National Public Speaking Competition, representing Girls High School.
“Since I won the Lions public speaking competition, I was chosen to represent because due to COVID, they weren’t able to host the original competition to select a person,” she said.
“I’m grateful,” Baptiste told iWitness News of her second-place win. “The preparation was tedious. There were a lot of late nights, a lot of stress. I’m glad that all that preparation and all that stress paid off.”
She said the youth congress was “a great avenue where you can talk about tourism and get to learn more about what makes St. Vincent St. Vincent. I don’t think a lot of us, youth, really immerse ourselves in tourism.”
Baptiste said that being a youth minister of tourism is “serving as a voice for the young people and to help to promote tourism through my voice so that youth would feel more involved and see the things that they can do to help to boost our tourism”.
Baptiste’s stint ends when the next youth congress is held next year.
She has won over 10 public speaking titles, including several at the Fancy Government School, which she attended.
Last year, as a GHS student, she was the winner of the United States Embassy’s fourth annual Black History Month secondary school speech competition, the first time that St. Vincent and the Grenadines competed in the event.
At Thursday’s Youth Congress, Baptiste spoke on agriculture in tourism, saying:
“Nothing brings people together like good food. And my island, with its rich volcanic soil, bears testimony to that. I rise — metaphorically-speaking — to outline my ministry’s proposal to share this good food with visitors to our shores.
“As Junior Minister of Tourism, I am cognisant of the difficulties associated with bringing this to fruition. Maintaining quality, consistency and providing ample quantities will be a Herculean task. Additionally, it is incumbent for my ministry to convince hoteliers and cruise lines of the tremendous benefits to be derived from buying food locally.
“To surmount these challenges, I propose a two-phase process. Firstly, my ministry, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, the jointly established agro-tourism committee, along with further technical support will ensure that crop standards are preserved and optimum quality food produced by providing seeds and equipment to select farmers. Increased acreage translating into larger crop production will be assured through the rental of crown lands and consistency will be achieved by having blocks of farmers engage in niche farming with a view of supplying to local and external markets.
“Secondly, Seatrade Cruise News reports the growing desire of cruise lines to source local. Thus, my ministry will lead a cadre of stakeholders connected with the tourism and agricultural department to the headquarters of cruise lines that frequent our shores, like Royal Caribbean. They will be equipped with a foolproof plan detailing my nation’s intent to supply food at rebated prices and the assurance of a consistent supply of quality produce in desired quantities, as well as an invitation to visit and examine our newly implemented system.
“According to booking.com 35% of travellers vacation specifically to try local delicacies. Being home to luxury hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, where others like Sandals Beaches and Holiday Inn slated to come on stream, my Island has the unique opportunity to take full advantage of this bountiful market and therefore, my ministry will facilitate communications between the hoteliers and other stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of greenhouses and purchasing programes to ensures a steady supply of our rich organic produce all through the year. We will even go a step further to implement a local night at the hotels where visitors can sample and savour sumptuous local cuisine.
“And there you have it. The table has been set and prepared for all those yearning for a taste. Let us eat!”