Suelin Simpson’s office at the resort complex where she works is about 200 meters from a world-class distraction: the light-blue, picture-perfect waters of the Caribbean on Jamaica’s north coast. But Suelin is more focused on her job, and her next sales trip overseas, than on the view.
“I do travel industry sales, so what I do is I liaise with a lot of travel agents all over the world, ” said Simpson.
“I also travel a lot. I go on sales calls, and special sales blitzes,” she said.
Simpson and other sales specialists like her in the hotel industry around the world play an essential role in the operations of the hotels they work for. If they do not bring in guests, there is nothing really for the rest of the staff at the hotel to do.
Simpson can often be found at her desk on Saturday and Sunday when her friends are more likely to be at the beach. She is fully focused on her career, and has been since she was 13 or 14, when she and four friends started the GTTP Jamaica programme at her school, Montego Bay’s Alvernia High.
“What I really loved about the programme was the interaction and getting to meet people,” said Simpson, who credits the programme with sparking her interest in a career in the travel and tourism industry.
But first a brief digression: the GTTP Jamaica programme is structured differently from those in other countries.
Jamaica typically welcomes enough visitors each year to more than double its population of some 2.7 million people. The importance of the industry to the country is reflected in what Jamaican students are taught as part of the regular national school curriculum. Information about the industry is woven into the five core subjects every student must study: Language Art, Social Studies, Mathematics, Integrated Science, and Resources & Technology. Topics studied as part of the five core subjects range from ” Sectors of the Tourism Industry” to “Impacts of Tourism” and “Tourism Marketing.”
Since the schools already cover the basics of the industry, the GTTP Jamaica Programme focuses on extra-curricular activities at individual schools like Alvernia High. The activities include classroom presentations, community involvement projects, specialized seminars and limited work attachments or internships. Individual school programmes like the one at Alvernia High are called Tourism Action Clubs.
Simpson and her friends developed “awareness” projects to encourage interest in the travel and tourism industry at their school, by inviting speakers to come to speak to the students.
They also worked with the Jamaica Tourist Board on a community philanthropic project sponsored by the JTB that involved working with Olympic and professional athletes from other countries.
The Club and its work was a wonderful opportunity, said Simpson, to interact “with individuals who are not from your country, so you can showcase your immediate environment, and your country, and your culture.”
As part of her work with the Alvernia Tourism Action Club Simpson also participated in internship opportunities, going after school and on weekends and during her school vacations to work and learn about the hotel business at the Sandals Inn in Montego Bay.
“I started in PR, then took in weddings and pretty much touched on every department,” said Simpson.
Meanwhile Simpson went on from Alvernia to Montego Bay Community College, adding to her qualifications by earning first an associates degree with an emphasis on food and beverage management — two very important sources of income for hotels — and later a bachelor’s degree in sales and marketing.
Simpson is now with The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, a few minutes from Montego Bay.
She believes that the industry needs to work on making itself to more attractive to young people who are looking at their career choices.
A typical student probably has the perception that a career in the industry means working in the ” restaurant, dining room — serving –and there is so much more that the industry offers,” said Simpson.
Simpson points out that the tourism industry on the island is changing.
“Gambling is now going to be introduced here legally, we have a lot of eco tourism, a lot of entertainment tourism,” said Simpson.
“The industry probably needs is to educate them on the different types of tourism that we offer here in Jamaica so that they can see the different options and make their own choices,” said Simpson.