Jamaica Hoteliers Endorse Tourism Certification

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William Vassell, general manager at the CocoLaPalm Resort in Negril, Westmoreland, makes his point during an interview on his assessment of the Ministry of Tourism’s Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation programme.

A call is being made for Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and other industry stakeholders behind the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) certification project to expand the programme to the thousands of entry-level and line staff employed in the sector islandwide.

The programme, which is the brainchild of the Ministry of Tourism, recently undertook a pilot project that included 150 students and a few employees who worked in 12 hotels. It was conducted by local and international certifying organizations, which provided globally recognized industry certification.

William Vassell, general manager and vice-president of operations at the CocoLaPalm Resort in Negril, Westmoreland, is calling on the JCTI to widen the certification cohort to include every area of the industry, which is short of certified staff.

In his assessment, Vassell expressed the view that the JCTI training/certification project should have been implemented 10 years ago but said that it is a welcome change to the hospitality sector and that everyone is pleased with its implementation.

“We see it as a very useful venture,” he said, adding that five of his employees participated in the programme and performed exceptionally well, continuing to excel in their daily work.

Vassell also said that the participants have made a remarkable improvement in time management, as well as their personal and organizational skills. Another positive sign Vassell said he has noticed is that these recently certified staff members are sharing their newly learned skills and knowledge with their colleagues.

“Over the years, through the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Negril Chamber of Commerce, we have always made representations to the relevant government agencies to implement external training and certification programmes across the industry,” Vassell said.

And now, with an industry-specific certification programme off the ground, Vassell is confident it will result in economic growth as the sector will have a more efficient and professional workforce.

Part of CocoLaPalm’s mandate is to encourage and engage its staff in training opportunities with organisations such as the Western Hospitality Institute, and Vassell says more of them could become exposed to future JCTI certification programmes. According to Vassell, this is an initiative that he would unhesitatingly recommend across the industry locally and regionally. Reflecting on the tourism industry in general, Vassell describes it as a wonderful sector for which he has a great deal of love and appreciation.

“I have had the choice of living in the United States, and I still do have that option. However, here I am, making Jamaica my home. I will always contribute to my people’s development, as well as that of my country.”

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