The CEO of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA), Noorani Azeez, has lamented that not enough locals are ‘buying into’ tourism, in the sense of embracing the industry as one that benefits all citizens.
“When you sit back and you look at it, we have quite a bit more to do in terms of ensuring that we are listening to our employees in the industry and we are paying attention to their needs and their recommendations,” Azeez asserted.
He described the tourism industry as employing ten to twelve thousand people on an annual basis.
“If you get each one of these persons and their families to be ambassadors for the industry, that will be a tremendous accomplishment in itself,” the SLHTA official observed.
However he said that tourism continues to be misunderstood by the general public, which is an indictment on the industry.
“We clearly have to do much better by our employees,” Azeez declared, adding that was a reason why the SLHTA has created a group medical insurance programme.
He explained that one thousand people who could not access group medical insurance for themselves and their families are now able to access it through the organization.
Azeez referred to the creation of the SLHTA virtual agriculture clearing house which allows farmers who did not have access to the industry to access it via a watsapp platform.
He explained that through the clearing house hoteliers can connect with the farmers directly to buy things that are available locally, as opposed to obtaining them overseas.
Azeez spoke of the SLHTA Youth Apprentice Programme, which to date has allowed five hundred people to complete tourism internships with a number of success stories as a result.
“They have never been exposed to the tourism industry before,” the SLHTA CEO said, adding that completion of the internship programme creates an opportunity to be gainfully employed.
He disclosed that the SLHTA is sensitive to the fact that more needs to be done by the organization to ensure that more employees become true ambassadors of tourism.