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New JHTA president aims to address staff shortages

JHTA President Robin Russell.

Robin Russell made a push for small tourism enterprises, which have a positive impact on the local economy. “We are the backbone of tourism,” he said, explaining that small enterprises are key to offering authentic cultural experiences and helping drive the economy.

The new president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) is laser focused on addressing human resource issues, including worrying staff shortages, across the tourism sector.

Recognizing that post-pandemic staff availability is a worldwide problem, Robin Russell said, “We're going to have to look at new and innovative ways of getting persons energized again to be back to work.”

The proprietor and general manager of Montego Bay’s Deja Resort, who inherits the JHTA leadership reins from Palace Resorts Vice President Clifton Reader, said while Jamaica has remarkable bookings on the horizon, hard work will be required to train and incentivize existing workers, and boost the labor pool required to meet the demand.

“We're back to 2019 numbers and even inching above that … we’re forecasting that this winter season will be just as busy or even busier, and if we don't have the staff, it will be a major problem,” he asserted, adding that if there are sustained shortages in personnel, such as managers, chefs, bartenders and housekeepers, the product could become jeopardized.

Russell, a director of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, believes Jamaica’s brand remains strong thanks to the country's expert handling of the COVID-19 crisis. He says this has helped strengthen demand for the product, which gets another shot in the arm with the imminent launch of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s new advertising campaign.

The hotelier made a push for small tourism enterprises, which have a positive impact on the local economy. “We are the backbone of tourism,” he said, explaining that small enterprises are key to offering authentic cultural experiences and helping drive the economy.

He explained that part of his JHTA mandate is to transform the thinking of small hoteliers, so they are no longer running their hotels like “mom and pop” establishments but as competitive and professionally run enterprises, leveraging the latest technology and tools of the trade.

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