MONTREAL, Canada – At the end of this week, the first phase of a major 8- to 10-year project will start between the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) and the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), specifically with FORMATUR, the ministry’s training division for the tourism and hotel industry. A team of ITHQ professors and other professionals will help fulfill the project’s goals to train staff in these two Cuban activity sectors and develop the country’s national cuisine. Phase 1 of the project will focus on the country’s cuisine and will last two years.
Between now and September 2018, the ITHQ will hold training activities for cooking professors and the directors of five hotel schools designated as a priority by FORMATUR as well as for trainers and cooks who work at hotels. The team will also evaluate Cuba’s cooking programs to develop highly practice-focused training that will be launched at these five hotel schools in 2017-2018. The ITHQ team will provide coaching and follow-up and advise its Cuban partners on cooking equipment and food supply purchases.
Surveys of tourists in Cuba have revealed some gaps when it comes to food, which is why Phase 1 will be dedicated to optimizing this area of improvement. For example, Cuban hotel schools are very good at teaching theory but leave little room for practice. The ITHQ team will use a pragmatic approach that is open to the needs and traditions of the Cuban hospitality industry, that is highly proactive, and that includes strict measurement indicators. The team will also capitalize on the confidence that Cubans have in the ITHQ as a government school.
This project began about a year ago following the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. In November 2015, Christine St-Pierre, Quebec Minister of International Relations, made an official visit to Havana, and tourism was identified as an avenue for cooperation. Subsequent visits to the ITHQ by the Cuban Minister of tourism and the director of FORMATUR confirmed that Cuba has urgent training needs, which led to the signing of a letter of understanding in May of this year.
The project was officially launched this week with the visit to Cuba of the ITHQ’s General Director, The Honourable Liza Frulla, P.C., O.Q. Two other members of the ITHQ assigned to this project arrived in Havana on September 12 with the economic mission group organized by Export Québec, which also includes Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Minister St-Pierre. Meetings to start the project and develop partnerships as well as visits to schools and hotels were held in the days after the signing of the agreement.
Liza Frulla believes that this long-term project will benefit not only Cuba and the ITHQ but also the Quebec economy. “This initiative will help increase Cuba’s attraction as a tourism destination. In addition to the other training activities we have carried out in the world, this project will reinforce the ITHQ’s position as an international centre for training in tourism, hotel and restaurant services. It will certainly inspire similar initiatives, particularly in Latin America. The relationships we establish will also help Quebec companies in our sector to come do business in Cuba.”
The project involves financial support from other partners in the Quebec government and from Cuban state-owned corporations and private companies, in addition to the participation of ITHQ and FORMATUR.