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This Blind Spot is Limiting Caribbean Tourism Potential

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (2 Nov. 2018) – A secret to unlock the full potential of Caribbean tourism may be hidden in plain sight. That is according to Tara Tvedt-Pearson, a certified strengths coach at Gallup, who will present a solution at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s 9th Tourism Human Resources Conference in the Cayman Islands from 28-30 November, 2018.

“Our innate talents and strengths represent our most direct path to our success. The problem, however, is that most people can’t accurately identify their own strengths and therefore can’t intentionally use them,” said Tvedt-Pearson.

The message will come as an integral component of the conference theme, ‘Building a Resilient, High-performing & Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Workforce for Global Competitiveness’. Tvedt-Pearson will present a masterclass on ‘Discover Your Strengths, Unlock Your Potential’ on Thursday 29 November.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to people development, most organisations across most cultures are operating from a mindset of weakness fixing. We identify areas of improvement and create annual development improvement plans for our employees even though we hired them for their strengths!” said Tvedt-Pearson.

Tvedt-Pearson has a background in human resources, psychology, and certification in project management which brings an ideal blend and balance to her coaching. Her work focuses on performance and by agreeing on measurements of success upfront, a clear scope and strategy is created for arriving at success.

“To help individuals and organisations worldwide harness the power of strengths, global management consulting company Gallup created the Clifton StrengthsFinder, an assessment that helps people discover and describe their talents. By revealing the ways in which each individual most naturally thinks, feels, and behaves, the assessment can help people identify and build on the areas in which they have the most potential to grow and succeed,” said Tvedt-Pearson.

Participants in the session will have the opportunity to discover their individual innate talents and the contributions they bring to their organisations, as well as understand what impact a strengths-based development approach -a “people solution” – can have to their business and bottom line. As a Gallup certified strengths coach, Tvedt-Pearson regularly helps individuals, leaders, teams, and organisations link their innate talents to specific goals and objectives, facilitate growth and development areas, and boost engagement.

The end goal is building a sustained competitive advantage. “Companies within the tourism sector that focus on measuring and managing employee engagement can withstand tough economic times and gain the competitive advantage that will keep them moving forward,” she said.

The CTO 9th Tourism Human Resources Conference seeks to provide an exciting and educational forum for human resource professionals to gain new knowledge and acquire the necessary skills to help them achieve excellent performance in their organizations. It also discusses pertinent issues impacting on, and relating to the human resource element of tourism in the region; exposes human resource practitioners to good tourism practices in a tourism environment, and provides an opportunity for professional networking.

The conference is sponsored by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and Dart, the Cayman Islands-headquartered global organisation whose portfolio of companies include real estate, hospitality, retail, entertainment, finance and biotech

For further details on the conference, including how to register, visit https://www.onecaribbean.org/events-calendar/tourism-hr-conference-2018/. And for a welcome message from minister of tourism Moses Kirkconnell, click here.

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Brand Specialist says HR can Unlock a Stronger Caribbean Tourism Identity

Managing Director of Blueprint Creative, Barbados, Ron Johnson will deliver masterclass on ‘Branding and HR Sitting in a Tree’ at CTO’s 9th Tourism HR conference in the Cayman Islands from 28-30 November 2018

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (26 Oct. 2018) – A more globally competitive Caribbean tourism brand and stronger industry await if the power of human resource management is harnessed to enhance branding. That is the key message that Ron Johnson, the managing director of Blueprint Creative, Barbados, will deliver during the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s 9th Tourism Human Resources Conference in the Cayman Islands from 28-30 November, 2018. The conference will be held under the theme ‘Building a Resilient, High-performing and Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Workforce for Global Competitiveness’.

Johnson will present a masterclass on ‘Branding and HR Sitting in a Tree’ on Friday 30 November.

“Taking an approach that branding starts on the inside of the organisation – not the outside – and having your branding and HR teams work more closely together, represents an opportunity for Caribbean tourism stakeholders to build stronger brands and stronger businesses, which can lead to Caribbean tourism being more competitive on the world stage,” said Johnson.

Johnson and his team of brand specialists at Blueprint Creative work with chief executives, marketing teams and human resources departments to help solve their brand-related business challenges. He has advised clients in several industries, including energy, banking, insurance, convenience retailing, accounting and security. At the conference he will engage with educators, trainers, human resource managers and consultants, students, Caribbean tourism practitioners, policymakers, tourism development agencies and academicians.

The branding specialist, who describes HR professionals as ‘branding superheroes in disguise’, said it’s important to get the message across at the macro and micro levels.

“The potential gains for tourism include the ability for individual organisations in the industry to build stronger brands and stronger businesses; and collectively, the ability to build a much stronger industry and be able to compete more effectively on the global market,” Johnson said.

He warns that the consequences of not heeding the message could mean falling behind the rest of the world in areas such as branding, human resources, customer experience and overall competitiveness.

In the masterclass at the conference, Johnson will explain why branding must begin internally.

“Even the most clever advertising campaigns can be derailed by disengaged employees delivering poor customer service,” said Johnson. “Companies want customers to love their brands, but that won’t happen unless their employees love the brand first. It can be very dangerous for companies to try to build a strong customer-facing brand when they have a weak employee-facing brand.”

This will be one of two masterclasses at this year’s three-day intensive programme of activities, with the other focusing on unlocking the potential of employees and amplifying performance across the workplace by using a strengths approach.

The CTO’s 9th Tourism Human Resources Conference seeks to provide an exciting and educational forum for human resource professionals to gain new knowledge and acquire the necessary skills to help them achieve excellent performance in their organisations. It also discusses pertinent issues impacting on, and relating to, the human resource element of tourism in the region; exposes human resource practitioners to good tourism practices in a tourism environment, and provides an opportunity for professional networking.

The conference is sponsored by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and Dart, the Cayman Islands-headquartered global organisation whose portfolio of companies include real estate, hospitality, retail, entertainment, finance and biotech

“We believe this conference will help re-energise Caribbean Tourism HR professionals, inspiring them to focus on people initiatives which support an engaged, high performing and resilient workforce,” said Juliet Du Feu, Dart’s senior vice president of human resources.

For further details on the conference, including how to register, visit https://www.onecaribbean.org/events-calendar/tourism-hr-conference-2018/. And for a welcome message from minister of tourism Moses Kirkconnell, click here.


About The Cayman Islands

Located 480 miles south of Miami in the vibrant tranquillity of western Caribbean, this trio of tiny islands is a premier destination for discriminating travellers, divers, honeymooners and families. World-renowned for its idyllic beaches and recognised as a sophisticated, diverse and memorable tourist destination, the Cayman Islands offers spectacular recreational opportunities along with warm, impeccable service. To learn more about the Cayman Islands, please go to visitcaymanislands.com or www.divecayman.ky or call your local travel agent.

From large-group trips and business-focused getaways to ultra-luxurious escapes and multi-generational family vacations, the Cayman Islands provides every element needed to keep guests coming back for more. With an abundance of world-class dining options, a host of adventure activities – including snorkelling, diving, jet skiing, caving, and nature trails – and a variety of meeting spaces for groups large and small, the Cayman Islands is well-poised to host any type of traveller or special occasion.


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Tourism Human Resource Professionals To Plan Strategies To Build High Performance Workforce

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (26 July 2018) – When human resource professionals from across the region meet in the Cayman Islands in November for the 9th Tourism Human Resources Conference, they will be challenged to develop effective strategies and plans to build a high performance and motivated workforce.

The 28-30 November conference, organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT), comes at a time when the Caribbean faces increased competition in the global, high-tech, innovation driven industry, and amidst increasing calls for a total rethink of the way tourism leaders engage with the workforce.

“There is an urgent need for a high performance, resilient workforce which is critical for sustainability of the tourism sector in this ever-changing environment,” Sharon Banfield-Bovell, the CTO’s regional human resource development consultant said as planning for the conference intensifies.

Building high performance teams come with challenges, she said, including employees’ unwillingness or lack of motivation to change; low employee productivity and morale; and the scarcity of relevant skills, as well as weak or outdated leadership thinking and styles.

However, Banfield-Bovell said, while technology can help drive efficiency, “the real value in tourism is our human resources – the power of people – and the ability of a well-trained, highly valued, and fairly compensated workforce to transcend beyond process and profit”.

The conference, which has as its theme Building a Resilient, High-Performing and Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Workforce For Global Competitiveness, will feature experts in human resources, tourism and labour, including Claudia Coenjaerts, director of the International Labour Organization’s decent work team  and office for the Caribbean, who will deliver the keynote address on, The Future of Work – What will become the New Normal.

The CTO team has been working with the CIDOT to produce a dynamic programme of plenaries, masterclasses, a students’ forum and a tour.

“As Caribbean nations, it is imperative that we make the necessary investments which drive visitation in this globally competitive industry. While these investments often come in the form of property development or increased marketing, it is my belief that the greatest asset any tourism product has is its people,” commented Rosa Harris, director of tourism for the Cayman Islands. “The Cayman Islands has continued to develop our local tourism workforce through nationwide customer service training, tertiary education scholarships and the establishment of a vocational certification programme through our School of Hospitality Studies. We are proud to host the 2018 Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Human Resources Conference and look forward to inviting professionals from across the region, to share best practices on ways we can strengthen our tourism workforces for collective success.”

Registration and other information available at www.onecaribbean.org.

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Four receive excellence awards in first-ever Hospitality Assured Caribbean Awards Programme


JOHN’S, Antigua (11 May, 2016) – Three Caribbean hospitality businesses and one business advisor received excellence awards today in the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s first-ever Hospitality Assured (HA) Caribbean Awards Programme.

Awards were presented to Atlantis Submarines of Barbados, Round Hill Hotel & Villas and Tryall Club, both of Jamaica for outstanding service and business excellence in tourism and hospitality. HA business advisor Hugh Wint of Jamaica was recognized for his active commitment to the HA Caribbean programme.

In introducing the inaugural awards on the first day of the CTO’s 8th Caribbean Tourism Human Resources Conference, director of resource mobilization and development Bonita Morgan explained that the programme was conceptualized to recognize Caribbean tourism and hospitality businesses which use the HA model for achieving continuous improvement, and have achieved HA certification.

One member of the Caribbean team of trained advisors and assessors who provide technical assistance to participating businesses, and who determine whether the businesses have met the certification criteria, was also recognized.

The following are the awards:

Award of Excellence for the Best Performer – Customers – Tryall Club of Jamaica. This award acknowledges the business with the highest average score in the segment that focuses on customer research, the customer service promise and customer satisfaction improvement.

Award of Excellence for the Best Performer – Employee – – Round Hill Hotel & Villas of Jamaica. This award recognizes the business with the highest average score in the segment which focuses on the employee, including resources, training and development and service delivery.

Award of Excellence for the Best Performer – The Organization – – Atlantis Submarines of Barbados. This award is in recognition of the company with the highest score for its focus on the customer in the areas of business leadership and planning and operational planning and standards of performance.

Award of Excellence for the Best Overall Performer – Tryall Club of Jamaica. This award is for the HA certified business with the highest overall total score among all the certified business.

Tryall Club received an overall score of 77.9, just over the score of 75 requited to plce it in the category of businesses which have achieved world class standards.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization Recognition Award – Hugh Went of Jamaica. This award goes to the team member who demonstrated a number of exceptional qualities and dedication tow towards improving the programme.

The conference theme is, Making Excellence a Habit: Service, Loyalty and Profitability in Caribbean Tourism. It is being organized by the CTO in collaboration with Antigua & Barbuda’s Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority and will be held at the Jolly Beach Resort and Spa.

For more information, including how to register, visit www.onecaribbean.org or email Marvelle Sealy at the CTO at [email protected]

Posted in: 2016 News, Blog, HR Conference

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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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