Scholars learn from tourism leaders

A special event on Wednesday evening saw young tourism scholars get the chance to intermingle and make themselves known to key leaders in the industry.

Organised by the Ministry and Department of Tourism, the 2006 Tourism Scholar Networking event took place at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort.

Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford spoke about how very proud he was to be hosting this event, the second such one to be hosted under his reign as Minister.

The Scholarship Programme represents the government’s efforts to facilitate more Caymanian involvement in the tourism sector, particularly at the managerial level. Since its inception in 1996, 60 students have been awarded either full or partial scholarships through the programme.

The reason for the evening, Mr. Clifford noted, is because of recognition of a gap in the tourism scholarship programme. While a very good job was being done in the implementation of the programme and awarding scholarships, some students were having difficulty with getting job placements on their return home from college.

The networking evening offered students opportunities to start building relationships with key stakeholders in the tourism industry, such as those in the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Cayman Airways and key hotels and restaurants.

Opportunities could present themselves, said Mr. Clifford, not only in getting permanent job placements when they return home, but in securing summer and Christmas work placements.

‘I want to encourage all of them (the scholarship students) to continue to strive for excellence, and, as Minister of Tourism I certainly look forward to welcoming you all back home to take your places in your tourism industry,’ he said.

Vice President and General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Jean Cohen gave a very encouraging speech to the scholars.

‘If I only tell you one thing about my background it is that I love what I do,’ she said.

‘I have the best job in the world, because my job is making people happy. That’s what I do for a living.’

Noting that the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman had recently been named the best in the world for guest satisfaction, she said it was certainly an achievement to be woman general manager of the best Ritz-Carlton in the world.

She gave a quick and witty outline of her 30-year career, having started in Banquets, moved over to Sales and Marketing, Rooms Division, Assistant Food and Beverage director and different jobs in between before becoming a general manager. ‘I was a general manager at 29 years old,’ she told an impressed audience.

Ms Cohen has now been general manger seven times, including at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, a 2,000-room hotel.

After taking a vacation, in Grand Cayman she fell in love with the island, fell in love with the people, and that’s what brought her here.

‘This opening has been a really good, enjoyable, wonderful opening,’ she said. She praised the ladies and gentlemen for all their work in pulling together to make such an extraordinary hotel.

‘The ladies and gentlemen give their heart and soul,’ she said.

Ms Cohen said she would recommend the tourism business to anybody who wants a challenging, interesting, exciting, diverse job.

‘You can be in accounting, you can be in the spa, you can be in food and beverage, you can be in engineering. There’s a myriad of extraordinary jobs.’

Besides the pay check, Ms Cohen said there are three reasons she comes to work:

To be part of something special – ‘I’m really proud to say that I belong to an organisation that’s first class’;

To be with people she likes. ‘My colleagues are my friends’;

And, to make a difference.

She told the young scholars, ‘I hope you fall in love with this business and that 30 years in the business you can feel the same way I do: I can’t wait to get up in the morning, I can’t wait to get to work, I can’t wait to see my friends at work and see all the wonderful, wonderful guests that come in. I hope you feel that way’.

She noted the many opportunities the Ritz-Carlton can offer them, not only in Grand Cayman, but around the world, before returning to the Cayman Islands.

Director of Tourism Pilar Bush echoed the importance of Ms Cohen’s three reasons for going to work each day. She added a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’.

She said, ‘I love my job. I’m proud of the Department of Tourism, the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Islands’ Government. I enjoy the people that I work with. I’m proud that under this Government’s leadership that we have already, in the past year, been able to make a difference in so many different aspects of the tourism industry.

‘In no small part the difference that we’ve made, for which those in DoT are also proud of, is to advance Mr. Clifford’s agenda in terms of investing in the people of the tourism industry.’