As part of an on-going partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and its Hospitality Assured (HA) certification program, the European Union under its Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) program last month hosted an HA Business Advisor Training Workshop at the Curacao Chamber of Commerce in Punda, Williemstaad, Curacao. Participants came from the Curacao Tourist Board, the Curacao Innovation & Technology Institute; and Creating Milestones, a management solutions company.
The main objectives of the workshop were:
• To provide participants with an overview of the HA standards and processes and awareness of the Business Excellence framework;
• To enable participants to manage and advise on the HA processes for client organizations which will enable these organizations to progress on their journey to excellence and to obtain HA certification;
• To provide participants with a knowledge and understanding of the evidence requirements of Hospitality Assured; and
• To provide participants with an opportunity to develop gender sensitive advisory approaches through the employment of case studies and role-play.
CTO began its journey with HA in 2007, seeking to strengthen the business performance and overall competitiveness of tourism enterprises in the Caribbean. CTO is in the process of building a network of advisors and assessors in member countries which are already involved in the HA program – including Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Kitts & Nevis, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines — and is also seeking to extend the scheme to countries which have not yet started to roll out the program but have indicated an interest in doing so this year. These include Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Guyana, Montserrat, Saint Lucia and The Turks & Caicos Islands.
The HA program endeavors to promote a culture of quality, service excellence and continuous improvement, through the use of a business improvement tool and framework that is internationally recognized, as a means to support customer service delivery in tourism enterprises.
The first task of the HA Program for Curacao was to train Business Advisors and to equip them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to work effectively with organizations and lead them through the detailed HA self-assessment process towards certification.
A series of introductory presentations delivered by the facilitators, Norma Shorey-Bryan and Sharon Banfield-Bovell, provided participants with a background to the HA program, perspectives on the issues and challenges faced in the tourism sector in the Caribbean, and detailed information on what was required on the HA Journey to Excellence. Focus was also placed on helping participants to understand issues related to gender and gender sensitive advisory approaches in dealing with the HA clients. These discussions on gender came to the forefront in the case studies discussions and role plays that were part of the learning and feedback sessions.
The interactive approach used throughout the workshop was designed to encourage participants to share their experiences, perspectives and concerns, and to learn from each other. Presentations stimulated lively group discussions, which helped participants consider how to apply the concepts taught when working with client organizations in Curacao. The workshop sessions included: presentations on fundamental topics like What is Excellence, Vision & Values, Business Planning Processes and Sharing Good Practices; introduction to each of the nine steps of the HA Model; role plays on case studies mirroring the operations in various types of tourism businesses; and other learning exercises linked to each of the nine steps.
By the end of the workshop, the participants had gained a deeper understanding of the structure of the HA framework and were aware of the key themes of Hospitality Assured. The detailed knowledge and understanding will be further taken in as they apply the model to real life situations as they work with small, medium and large sized businesses in Curacao’s tourism and hospitality sector.