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Archive for May, 2016

Keynote Address: Glenda Medford, Tourism HR Conference, Antigua & Barbuda

Making excellence a habit: Service, Loyalty and Profitability in the Caribbean

Mr. Hugh Riley, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Caribbean tourism practitioners and leaders, visiting presenters, thank you for inviting me to share a few thoughts on ‘excellence’ – how to make excellence a habit.

As you just heard, I have had an interesting journey in my professional life – one which has given me the opportunity to see first hand and experience the good, the bad and the down right ugly. I have seen  persons you might least expect, deliver outstanding work, driven by an internal hunger, passion and drive to succeed against all odds.

I have seen others who flattered to deceive – in my opinion –falling short of an ideal I had envisaged, considering their profile and experience. I also discovered that what is ‘excellence’ in many ways depends on who is doing the measurement and the circumstances. The achievement in putting a man on the moon is not the same as smashing every record in winning a marathon– but there is no doubt that they are both excellent.

‘Excellence’ is defined as…” the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.”  
‘To excel’ means “to surpass others or to be superior in some respect or area; to do extremely well”.

Excellence is however not perfection, but as Vince Lombardi remarked elegantly: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.

In the words of one of my university lecturers Professor P.K Menon: “If you reach for the stars you might reach the tallest tree.’

Excellence is about setting a high standard for yourself and focusing on being as EXCELLENT as YOU can possibly be. It is ultimately inward focused. It is your current ability vs. YOUR maximum potential.

However, some people settle for mediocrity in many aspects of their lives on a daily basis. They may accept shoddy work from an employee, continue to engage and socialize with ‘friends’ that constantly let them down, and continue using a service provider whose service is totally unacceptable. Instead of demanding better, they may shrug their shoulders and accept the MEDIOCRITY being dished out to them.  They tolerate it, they become numb, and very soon their own image of excellence is altered and replaced with a lesser standard – an inferior view.

In the words of President Barack Obama: ‘Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.’

In this region there is already some evidence of chronic MEDIOCRITY at all levels and silent acceptance by the public, the people being served. The sad reality is that with every passing day, the less than excellent behaviour becomes the norm, the accepted behaviour, I shudder to say – the new EXCELLENCE’.

The Caribbean is not the world, and we are exposed daily, by higher standards of behaviour demanded by the global players to achieve ‘excellence’.

At the end of this session you can decide if you want to be on the road to excellence or the road to indifference.

As John Wooden said,  “If you do not have time to do it right when will you have time to do it over.”

The industry

Ladies and gentlemen, let me put this conversation within a context.

You are leaders in one of the most important and fastest growing sectors in the world. The Travel and Tourism World Economic Impact  Report for 2015 reveals that Travel & Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 277 million jobs for the global economy in 2014.  (Preface page v)

In addition, international tourist arrivals reached a record 1.14 billion in 2014, (51 million more than in 2013), with forecasts suggesting that in 2030, tourism international arrivals are likely to reach 1.8 billion.  [United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). (chapter 1.1 page 3)]

There is no doubt that Tourism is a vital sector for the Caribbean region and is a major player in our socio-‎economic development. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation reported that 2015 was the second year in a row that the region performed better than the rest of the world, and the sixth consecutive year of growth.

At its core, Tourism is about people and places creating memorable experiences for our visitors. If your visitors are satisfied or even overjoyed by their experiences, they can become loyal repeat visitors who become live ‘walking and talking billboards’ for our Caribbean destinations – brand ambassadors.

One of your goals should therefore be to create a customer who creates customers, to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.

Therefore, the combination of the destination physical and human assets with the emotional experiences of visitors are looking for, should produce customer satisfaction AND, a loyal customer, that is, a customer who would come back again and again, make business referrals, and directly or even indirectly provide strong word-of-mouth references and publicity. [John T. Bowen & Stowe Shoemaker, (1998)]

In a nutshell, customers who are loyal cannot be easily influenced or swayed by enticement from competitors.  [Baldinger & Rubinson (1996)] Loyalty results from customer satisfaction which is largely influenced by the value the customers places on the services received and their experiences.

So how can we embed excellence at every level of the ecosystem of our industry? How can this region ensure that it is the destination of choice for the millions of persons who travel worldwide annually? How do we increase our global market share?


Let us have a closer look at whether  ‘excellence’ can be used by this region, as the solution, the silver bullet for keeping ahead of the competition, retaining current visitors, acquiring new ones, growing market share, and ultimately increasing the tourism dollars.

Striving for excellence is not new for the Caribbean in fact our history has shown the determination, strength of will and character of our people to overcome adversity and to achieve excellence.

Within our small Caribbean Community, many have achieved excellence in different spheres of activity measured by local and international standards.

We can point to the success of Sir William Arthur Lewis who won the Nobel Memorial prize in Economics in 1979 and Derek Walcott who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; Bob Marley who lives on through his music which is known and loved in every corner of the globe – today marks the 35 anniversary of his death; and Usain Bolt – to name a few.

Unfortunately we can also point to too many examples where service delivered was less than excellent service.

Excellence is a place where people who refuse to settle for mediocrity live; it is a place where one reaps all the hard work sown. It is a journey of continuous progression toward the goals in your life.

Excellence, the highest human achievement is NOT beyond anyone’s capacity.  It is not a fixed goal – it is an ever-changing dynamic; a moving target. The quality of your craft and abilities today should not be the same as last year. Excellence is an every moving target.

 ‘Excellence is not a destination; it’s a journey that never ends.’

In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published the management book, “In Search of Excellence” where they identified eight characteristics of excellent companies:

  1. A bias for action –( getting things done)
  2. Stay close to the customer
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship- (are flexible and supportive of the creative process)
  4. Productivity through people – (employee engagement and treating employees with dignity and respect)
  5. Clear and compelling organizational values  – (the right values will define the company)
  6. Focusing on what you do best
  7. Operating with a lean staff – flatter organisation
  8. Finding a balance between having enough structure without getting stuck in it – (co-existence of a firm’s direction and an individual’s autonomy)

In reflecting on these principles articulated 34 years ago, Holly Green wrote in Forbes magazine, “Redefining Excellence for Today’s World”:

“These principles remain good guides to this day. However, the business world has changed almost beyond recognition over the last 30 years, and the time has come to redefine what excellence means. In today’s world, excellence is more than a set of principles. It’s a set of beliefs, ways of thinking, a matter of discipline, and ways of focusing.

Excellence starts with getting very clear on the end state you wish to achieve (winning) and relentlessly driving towards it every day. Excellence requires knowing when to push on (even when you don’t have all the information or the perfect solution), but doing it well and constantly refining as you forge ahead. Excellence means accepting only the best, and understanding that when it is not given that you, as the leader, are at least partly responsible.”

Transformation – change management

Working to achieve excellence requires leaders to really look at their business model and processes, the recruitment process, people development approaches, your systems, product development and marketing – and making changes designed to help you to function in an every changing environment and to satisfy and exceed your customers’ expectations and demands. In order to improve an organization you have to be prepared to change how the work is done.

In the words attributed to Mark Twain: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’

I can tell you first hand that managing change is difficult but the aim is to find a way to be always relevant and to remain a big player in the game.

 “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

Making Excellence a Habit

So how can we make excellence a habit?

As Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I am going to share a few tools you can use towards achieving personal or business excellence.

  1. Make a list of priorities every day. Practice small. Practice daily

Developing a habit requires daily personal commitment and repetition. Be disciplined. You must commit to make those baby steps every day.

  1. Be consistent

Striving for excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.

  1. You need to be hungry for success – have a deep and burning desire to excel

If you have the will to win, you will develop the will to prepare and persevere.

  1. Understand your customers

A clearer understanding of your customers, and their expectations as it relates to a service, will contribute to a more effective positioning, promotion and communication strategies.

For example, Millennials, also known as ‘Gen Y’ are driving change in the travel industry. They are a young, yet influential demographic group of travellers born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, who according to Millenniel Traveller report, represent ‘20% of international travellers and by 2020, 320 million international trips are expected to be made by them each year, a staggering 47% increase from 217 million in 2013.’ [Millenial Traveller report]

Millenniels are:

  • Tech savy
  • Like  authenticity [and prefer hands on experiences, walking in the footsteps of locals and exploring heritage and hike trails]
  • Spontaneous
  • Rely on word of mouth

Millenniels are a digital generation who are changing the rules of the game.

  1. Be a yardstick of quality.

Implement a business plan with clear objectives and goals, responsibilities, accountabilities and standards of performance with measurements; engage the team and ensure everyone understands their role and deliverables; leaders – walk the talk; engage your team with performance assessment and staff engagement tools, and share the information/feedback. Engage the customer – their feedback is vital; have customer surveys and share the feedback with your team. Create a service culture with staff embracing the brand values as well as having the knowledge, communication skills and are empowered to deal with interactions and situations.

  1. Exercise Emotional Intelligence 

Leaders should exercise Emotional intelligence – E.I. – if they are to achieve extraordinary results. The act of knowing, understanding, and responding to emotions, overcoming stress in the moment, and being aware of how your words and actions affect others.

  1. Put God first –thank him every day for grace, mercy, humility, talents, understanding, prosperity  and wisdom – in advance
  2. Push yourself –human spirit can win again great odds

Challenge yourself. Be relentless.

If you do not set high standards for yourself, who will?  There is no escalator to excellence, but rather a stairway which needs to be climbed step by step. Excellent people do not settle for the status quo – they want to experience the best and be the best. That means giving their best each time; every day. They go the extra mile so that in everything they do, in everything they say and think, they are striving for excellence. They make excellence a habit.

Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence.

These are but a few suggestions to get going onto the road to excellence. If we get the people fired up the rest will fall in place.

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential  these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence” Eddie Robinson

Do not be afraid. You can do it.

The sky is the limit.

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CTO Sec. Gen. Remarks at 2016 Tourism HR Conference in Antigua

Remarks by CTO’s Secretary General Hugh Riley at the official opening of the CTO’s 8th Tourism Human Resources Conference Jolly Beach Resort, Antigua, May 11, 2016

Hon. Samantha Marshall, Minister of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development
Mrs. Paula Frederick-Hunte, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy
Mr. Colin James, Chief Executive Officer, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Mrs. Vanessa Ledesma, Chief Operating Officer, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association
Dr. Lorraine Nicholas, tourism specialist at the OECS Commission
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you today to share a few opening thoughts as we tackle the business of Making Excellence a Habit.

My comments are just the appetizer because the experts whom Bonita Morgan and her team have assembled to speak to us over the next few days, will certainly serve up the main course.

Before we even begin, please join me in thanking The Honourable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism for Antigua and Barbuda and his team of professionals for their gracious hospitality and their warm welcome to Antigua.

The person who met us and drove us here from the airport is certainly one of finest first impressions of a destination that I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. Cleo Henry’s knowledge, pride in her country and sheer eloquence, should be used as an industry best-practice.

Our gratitude too, must go to the Management and Staff at Jolly Beach Resort for their attentiveness and their obvious focus on satisfying the needs of their guests.

There is no denying that when we speak of customer satisfaction, we often tend to focus a disproportionate amount of attention on front line employees. Why? Because they are critically important to the delivery of the tourism product to the end user, and are therefore an essential source of immediate feedback on how we’re doing.

But in addition to the frontline, there are the legions of team members who are involved in every aspect of creating, selling, marketing, designing, building, defending, testing, researching and communicating the experience we ultimately deliver. Because we are tourism destinations, we naturally focus on visitors but the basic formula for winning the satisfaction and approval of our customers, works in virtually any field of endeavor.

So what is it that we really aim to achieve in our interaction with customers?

Imagine for a moment how our day would begin – and end – if we truly focused on making every customer a repeat customer. So regardless of what you do, you go to work tomorrow and decide that each interaction is going to be aimed at getting this person to come back to your restaurant, or hotel, watersports facility or country.

So automatically, you are now in the mode of doing such an excellent job to get them back, time and again, that you are spontaneously guaranteeing that their current experience is special. You are effectively making that process a habit.

When I was putting these few thoughts together about Making Excellence a Habit, I was curious to see how Webster, Oxford, Encarta and even the American Journal of Psychology defined a habit.  Generally speaking, they sort of agree that a habit is a regular tendency or practice. An automatic reaction to a specific situation.

So we effectively need to be making excellence automatic.

And why does it even matter if we’re excellent? Who cares? We all must care.

Because we are the world’s most tourism-dependent region, we must care more than anyone else. No one should pay more attention to delivering a superb experience, than we in the Caribbean.

Over the years I’ve discovered that not everyone is comfortable with the fact that we are so tourism-dependent.  To some it sounds like we are stuck there; like we are saying that somehow we should not develop other areas of our economies. We should not try to diversify. Of course we should. Countries all over the world that were overly dependent on one sector or another, have sought to diversify their economies; and interestingly, all of the world’s developed countries, rich in various natural and other resources, have turned serious attention to developing their tourism sectors!

There are reasons why the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region.

The number one reason is that we have a huge competitive advantage. Where else in the world is there the combination of Dutch, English, French, Spanish, African and Asian cultures in one destination?

The Caribbean’s natural and built-heritage, its food, visual and performing arts, history and infectious hospitality are all attractive magnets for foreigners seeking a new narrative.

Stunning colonial architecture and pockets of indigenous peoples also provide rich experiences waiting to captivate curious discoverers.

Where else is there a combination of excellent weather, all year-round, alluring beaches and infectious rhythms?

The Caribbean is proud to possess 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located in 14 countries. Some of the Caribbean’s sites were inscribed on the list as early as 1982, placing us on the list before prominent countries like China, India, Spain and the UK.

So those are some of the competitive advantages that make us proud of our tourism prominence.

But as important as it is to have all of that, the adhesive that must bind it all together is service excellence.

Our competitors around the world can always have deeper pockets and taller buildings; but no one should have better people than the Caribbean. Nowhere in the world should there be a population that is more dedicated to acquiring the tools and using the resources available to constantly assess and improve our performance. In other words, as a region we must pay close attention to customer response mechanisms, so that we always know how our guests are defining excellence.

That feedback is essential. Grab every realistic opportunity to communicate with your guests and find out how they really feel. Only by knowing how we are doing, can we constantly improve.

At the Caribbean Tourism Organization we feel so strongly about this that we created a monitoring mechanism for destinations. Guestpitality – Total Visitor Satisfaction asks visitors to assess their destination experience in seven critical sectors. This is on-the-ground feedback on how a country is doing in the most vital areas of a visitor’s experience. Just as high scores are validation of what you are doing right, Guestpitality also points out the sectors that need attention. If we want to be excellent, we must make collecting feedback a habit!

We all know that there are good habits and bad habits; and as we also know, habits are hard to break. So let’s choose good ones, and then make them impossible to break!

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SLJAF 2016 records a number of firsts

Castries – (May 09, 2016) – Early indicators are telling a story of a number of successes achieved from the staging of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Among these are record attendance on each night of the mainstage events, sold-out venues well before gates opened, the vision for the infusion of the Arts being more fully realized and unprecedented levels of accommodation occupancy in the north of the island.

Deputy Director of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB), Tracey Warner-Arnold, reports that ahead of the analysis from event surveys and the Festival’s exit survey which will give a more comprehensive assessment of the various operational aspects, lineup satisfaction, visitor arrivals and patronage, a number of clear indicators have emerged which validate some of the choices and decisions made for the Festival this year.

“Well ahead of the opening of the gates for each mainstage event, we exceeded ticket sales from our best prior years,” Mrs. Arnold said. Numbers to date show at least 1,000 more patrons consecutively at Pigeon Island Mainstage Saturday and Sunday in 2016 over the year 2010, which until this year, recorded the highest level of patronage ever. According to the SLTB Deputy Director, this kind of success is gratifying and encouraging and highlights the attractiveness of the lineup and the effectiveness of the festival marketing.

In his analysis of these numbers, Director of Tourism Louis Lewis said it validated the line-up as one that could achieve three essentials, namely commemorate a world class journey, bring the sing-along dynamic for Mother’s Day, and cater to a range of tastes while also remaining true to the foundational jazz roots of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.

On the strength of public opinion recorded via social media and event patronage, the 2016 Arts Component is described as having exceeded expectations.

“The Arts component for us has been the crowning glory of the Festival because in three short years we were able to demonstrate the vision we had for a Festival that is authentic to the destination in all its cultural and creative dimensions, and not one that resembles or patterns itself from any other,” explained Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis. In his assessment, the close SLTB and Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) partnership adds a value to the Festival which will be felt for years to come as an ideal model where a credible, colourful and compelling Saint Lucian aesthetic is infused into the Festival. According to Mr. Lewis, the visibility and educational value which the CDF/ SLTB collaboration achieved with respect to three national heroes – Sir Derek Walcott, Virginia Alexander and Sir Dunstan St. Omer – are significant because the Festival must also be evaluated in the context of sectoral development, and growth opportunities for Saint Lucian Artists and Artisans.

“These three icons epitomize the excellence of Saint Lucia’s literary, artistic and dance product. They are the bar, and creating a space within the Festival to tell their stories, showcase their journeys and celebrate their achievements does much for education and national pride.’

This year, the Arts infusion included a two night run of Sir Derek Walcott’s Omeros by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Cultural Icon Series tribute to dance legend Virginia Alexander and the erection of an Arts Village which, according to the SLTB Director, served the aim of making the Arts a core part of the Festival programme, a model which will continue for the years to come.

Posted in: 2016 News, Blog, Destination News

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Bahamas to Test Undersea Weddings Record

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – A wedding campaign geared towards breaking the Guiness Book of World Records in undersea weddings was officially launched on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at a press conference at the Grand Lucayan resort, the proposed site for the event next year.

In Deep Love Bahamas Limited, a Bahamian destination events management company, has scheduled the event to take place on February 14, 2017, Valentine’s Day, in Grand Bahama. Organizers hope to break the standard in the Guiness Book of World Records for undersea weddings, which is currently set at 34, by having 50 couples participate.

Alfred Collie Jr., creator and organizer of the campaign, notes the event will not only foster destination weddings, scuba diving and ecotourism in The Bahamas, but showcase the waters while bringing focus to their conservation.

“We are working to achieve a number of objectives by bringing couples from around the world to marry in the turquoise, crystal clear waters of The Bahamas. We also hope to unite the Bahamian people and the world behind a novel concept that brings immense international attention to ocean conservation while at the same time creating the ultimate wedding photo ops and memories.”

Director of Romance for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Freda Malcolm, said “The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is very excited about the ‘In Deep Love’ wedding promotion and fully endorses it. We have already received a huge amount of media interest from around the world, on the coverage of this great event, including news organizations from the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Canada, and the United States of America.

“The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has been aggressive, deliberate and innovative in its marketing initiatives to promote the Islands of The Bahamas as the premier wedding destination in the world.”

Betty Bethel, Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama, added that they were pleased Grand Bahama was chosen for this event. With the island being a ‘nature-based destination,’ it is the ideal location.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization has declared 2016 the ‘Year of Romance for the Caribbean’ and in November 2015, the Islands of The Bahamas were named the “Leading Wedding Destination” at the World Travel Awards in Morocco.

Posted in: 2016 News, Blog, Destination News

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His Imperial Highness Prince Selassie enjoys Jamaica’s culture

Selassie 2MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA – May 4, 2016 – HIS IMPERIAL HIGHNESS PRINCE SELASSIE  ENJOYS JAMAICA’S CULTURE -His Imperial Highness (HIH) Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, Haile Selassie’s grandson, of Ethiopia and his spouse, Princess Saba Kebede were recently in Jamaica to participate in 50th anniversary celebrations of his grandfather’s Emperor Selassie’s visit. During his visit, HIH Prince Selassie enjoyed aspects of Destination Jamaica’s multifaceted tourism product. Above HIH Selassie (second left) and Princess Saba Kebede (second right), with Maracas in hand, enjoy the cultural presentation of the Hatfield Cultural Group at Meliá Braco Village. The couple also toured the Rose Hall Great House.


His Imperial Highness (HIH) Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie of Ethiopia (left), also met Dmitri Kosvogiannis (right), General Manager, Melia Braco Village with the ‘Star of David’ gesture. The gesture is a symbol of Rastafarianism, a religious movement that began in Jamaica, which honours Emperor Haile Selassie as its leader. HIH Prince Selassie, is the grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie and was in Jamaica for the commemoration for the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s visit to the island.

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