The addition of Baha Mar’s 2,200 rooms and renovations of Atlantis Paradise Island’s Cove, Beach, Coral and Royal Towers, and upcoming renovations at its Reef makes The Bahamas a “fresh” product said Carlton Russell, President of the Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA). “Forbes Travel Guide started an audit of the Caribbean three years ago. It’s just a matter of time before they reach The Bahamas. We will be audited whether we like it or not,” said Mr. Russell. “The good thing here is The Bahamas is hot. We have the freshest product we’ve ever had in 20 years. The Bahamas itself has a very fresh product.” He pointed out that the target market is ‘luxury’ — “for the mere reason that it’s where the Caribbean dollars are spent — that’s the customer who has the discretionary income to drive our ADR (Average Daily Rate).” Mr. Russell told educators at a recent Educators’ Industry Internship Programme that he had just returned from an exploration of luxury markets to observe processes, and what makes 5-star hotels, a rank The Bahamas has not yet achieved.
He said the Educators’ Industry Internship Programme, now in its 15th year, is making incremental progress and because of it more young people are viewing the hospitality industry as a viable career option. “Take advantage of this week. Without tourism we are dead. Tourism contributes 60% plus to our GDP. With Baha Mar numbers coming in, I’m sure it will be closer to 65%. It employs 9,000 employees, second to the government. It is our bread and butter. Without tourism, we will die.” He challenged the educators to use the week to look at internship and support programmes ‘as the customer,’ and view how the success of the operation depends upon each person doing the job efficiently. “You are the shapers of young minds, talent scouts; you are one of the most important people for the continued development of our nation, people and number one industry, tourism,” stated Mr. Russell. The annual summer Educators’ Industry Internship Programme is organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in collaboration with the Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association, the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, and the University of The Bahamas. It was held at the Courtyard Marriott. The internship includes a historical tour of New Providence including Fox Hill, Bain Town, Gambier Village and Adelaide Village; and presentations by Dr. Linda Davis, Provost, University of The Bahamas; Scott Allan, Grand Hyatt; Kevin King, Baha Mar; and Suzanne Pattusch, Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association.
Eulease Beneby, Deputy Director of Education, said MOE is pleased to participate in this “innovative” programme that affords educators hands-on experience in the field of tourism in an effort to enhance their classroom delivery. She said there has been an increase in the number of students interested in pursuing a career in the nation’s number one industry. “You have the tools to empower our youth and to direct those who are so inclined to the tourism sector. Students must be aware of the opportunities that will be available to those who are prepared. “As educators, your thrust must be to train students on how to meet the needs of high standard global travelers. Use the experience to overflow into classrooms, affording opportunities for hands-on learning.” She commended the teachers who, she said, chose to use their vacation to take advantage of a valuable learning experience.