Bridging the Caribbean Skills Gap

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CHTA Communications


Bridging the Caribbean Skills Gap

Written by Adriana Serna, Director of Communications, CHTA

The viability and growth of any service-based company lies firmly on the shoulders of the people that provide that service. In few industries does the quality of the staff have such a direct impact on the bottom line as it does in the hospitality and tourism industry. According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, an actively engaged, empowered, well trained and supervised employee is more likely to improve customer relationships, resulting in a 20% increase in sales. Satisfied and well-trained employees are 31% more productive and lead to 12% increase in a hotel’s profitability. It is then no surprise that hotels with an ingrained culture of education and positive engagement experience 24% less turnover.

New President’s Focus

These facts do not escape CHTA’s recently installed President Patricia Affonso-Dass who places people development as a key focus of her presidency.   “Today’s successful owners and managers recognize the incredible strength of Caribbean people to create memorable experiences, deliver exceptional service and drive referrals and repeat business.  Our challenge as owners and operators is to shape and harness the power of our people.   Investments in developing, training and recognizing our people yield ongoing returns and should never be underestimated” according to CHTA President Patricia Affonso-Dass.

The Case of the Caribbean

A recent study performed by Springboard Caribbean (CHTA Strategic Educational Partner) in February 2018, undertook the task of understanding the training and development needs of managers and supervisors in the Caribbean Hospitality Industry. This study carried out in a number of prominent Caribbean nations revealed that homegrown employees who perform well at an operational level have no difficulty in being promoted into supervisory positions. However, many of these new supervisors receive no formal supervisory or management training and consequently are given little opportunity to advance further.

Furthermore, access to professional development opportunities is limited due to the lack of time off for training and development purposes as well as the cost of these opportunities. The study identified the core set of skills, knowledge and abilities that are often missing, but are essential, for new and existing supervisors and managers, to make a real contribution to their business and to grow and advance their careers.

CHTA Helps Bridge the Gap

It is clear that in order to create significant and long lasting change; the commitment to people development needs to start at the top. Continuing education needs to become part of the Caribbean hospitality culture, as essential to its operations as cost management and marketing practices. Hoteliers must not only make the training opportunities accessible to employees at all levels, but also invest the time to make these trainings mandatory.

Recognizing the need for greater focus by CHTA on education and training, in 2016 CHTA created a ‘People Development Initiative’.  Chaired by Patricia, its purpose is to bolster those initiatives which CHTA is already offering while placing greater organizational focus on education, training and professional development, working with National Hotel and Tourism Associations, member companies and education and training partners to develop and deliver more opportunities for the industry. Here’s an overview of some of CHTA’s current people development initiatives.


  • The Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF): Every year nearly 300 participants invest their time to hone their skills and broaden their awareness at the Caribbean’s most innovative tourism educational forum. CHIEF offers owners, managers and supervisors educational tracks covering a wide variety of topics on operations, marketing, sustainability and technology. The event also offers members specialized training sessions from educational partners such as Florida International University, Springboard Caribbean, Forbes Travel and STR. CHIEF will be back in June 2019. For more information on the event, visit


  • Taste of the Caribbean: Well known for its culinary competition, Taste is much more than a comp With the support of Johnson and Wales University and leading F&B producers and manufacturers, CHTA has expanded its food and beverage trainings each year to more than 150 chefs and bartenders from over 15 Caribbean destinations. For more information on the event, visit


  • The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF): the Foundation issues on average more than 40 scholarships to Caribbean nationals each year to further their tourism studies. The Foundation also plans to expand its offerings this year when it launches scholarship support of certificate and credentialed training to help upgrade the skills of employees already working in the industry. For more information, click here.


  • Caribbean Tourism Job Bank: Born out of the goal to help match Caribbean tourism industry workers displaced by the 2017 hurricanes with employment opportunities elsewhere during the recovery period, the jobs bank has helped dozens of employees find meaningful work while polishing their skills. The jobs bank has caught on and is now a tool which CHTA members are using to find qualified employees. Click here to access the Job Bank.


  • Webinars: by leveraging the power of technology, CHTA offers its members hour-long interactive trainings online in a variety of timely topics such as GDPR Compliance, Brexit, Sargassum, Zika, Cost Management, Digital Marketing and more. For a full list of CHTA’s webinars, click here.


  • CHTA Sponsored Certifications by Springboard Caribbean: CHTA entered into a partnership with Springboard Caribbean to provide internationally-recognized trainings at an exclusive CHTA member discount to member companies and their employees. These trainings are offered at the destination as well as online. Springboard Caribbean used the findings of their study to create a Career Success Model for Caribbean supervisors and managers, and subsequently worked with its key accreditation partners i.e. The IoH (Institute of Hospitality) and the CTH (Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality), to design targeted training and development units that aligned with the Career Success Model. These training programs provide the knowledge, tools and techniques required to address the identified performance/skills gaps in supervisors and managers and deliver these in an affordable and accessible manner. For more information on these trainings and how to sign up, click here.


  • Young Leaders Forum: Presently being developed, the intention is to identify and help develop the next generation of local and CHTA Leadership, creating a place at the table and within the organization where they can have a voice, strengthen their professional network, present fresh new ideas to grow, diversify and strengthen their NHTAs and the CHTA and provide opportunities for exposure to Past Presidents, industry icons and Hoteliers of the Year in a mentorship type program.


  • Caribbean Industry Awards / CHIEF Awards: Recognition goes a long way in retaining exceptional employees, sharing best practices and encouraging excellence is all aspects of hospitality. To view a complete list of current and past recipients of these prestigious awards, click here. Requests for nominations are coming in early 2019. Follow CHTA on all social media and make sure to submit your nominations.


“Tourism has brought unprecedented opportunities to our shores, uplifting our people, opening new career paths and creating new entrepreneurs. All of this is underpinned by the professionalism of our people and their commitment to excel. We ask Caribbean hoteliers to keep focus on the vital role that people play in the tourism industry and the profound opportunity for growth that the industry can have on our Caribbean people. The development of our most valuable resource is intrinsically tied to the growth and success of our region.” states CHTA President Patricia Affonso-Dass.