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Joint Statement by the Ministry of Labour and the Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association...
Date: 15 January 2010

Antigua has been in the hospitality and tourism business for over 50 years, yet only a disproportionate few Antiguan nationals have reached top positions in the industry.

This has been a concern to the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, and last week Thursday, Minister of Labour, Sen. the Hon. Dr Errol Cort along with the Labour Commissioner, Mr Hesketh Williams and other labour officials, met with leaders in the hotel industry to explore the reasons for this situation, and to chart a way forward to ensure that future generations of Antiguans lead the way in this industry.

Thursday’s meeting was as a result of Minister Cort’s desire as Minister of Labour to ensure that mechanisms were in place within the hotel industry that allowed nationals of this country to have effective upward mobility to assume the most senior positions. He expressed concern over the number of work permit applications being made to the Labour Department, especially for positions that nationals could just as easily fill. Minister Cort suggested to the delegation at the meeting that each property could devise a human resource plan that would lead to this upward mobility of nationals.

In response, the hoteliers noted that on many properties, succession plans were already in place. They also said that there were many reasons for the absence of Antiguans in management positions; a principle reason being that for a long time working in the industry was never considered a valued career choice. This however, has shifted. The last few years have seen Antiguans take up executive positions in hotels. The majority of these persons are employed in the culinary field however, with only a select few in general management positions.

The delegates added that whilst efforts were underway in most hotels to develop local talent and prepare persons for the top positions, a coordinated approach needs to be adopted. The hoteliers agreed through the AHTA, to work with the Ministry of Labour to chart the way forward.

General Manager of the AHTA, Neil Forrester said, “The solution is long term and needs to start with preparing young children in our primary schools, and the AHTA is currently working with the Ministries of Tourism and Education to reintroduce the Hello Tourist programme for grade six students”.

The hoteliers welcomed the recent positive changes at the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute, stating that the institution must play a prominent role in preparing students for the industry. It is envisioned that the planned expansion of the institute through funding by the 11th EDF project will further allow the institute to play a pivotal role in enhancing the skills of nationals who are desirous of entering the industry.  

It was also opined that persons in the industry needed to take ownership of their personal development. Forrester said that scholarships are available with the Caribbean Hotel Association Education Foundation, but the AHTA and the Ministry of Labour will be working together to source additional scholarships so that our young people can travel overseas to get world class industry education. He added that the aim of programmes like the CaribCert Employee certification is to see all hotel industry workers with an internationally recognized certification for the position they held.

The meeting concluded with an agreement that the hotels, through the AHTA would enter into an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will, amongst other things, establish a framework for ensuring that nationals have full upward mobility in the hotel sector.  This MOU is likely to be signed between the parties in the next 30 days. The Minister thanked the delegation for their positive contributions, participation, and their willingness to partner with the Ministry in this effort. 

For further information contact;
Neil Forrester at the AHTA  @ 462-0374
Carel Hodge at the Ministry of Labour @ 562-6147

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