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Lessons for Tourism Students
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011

By Derren Joseph
February 28, 2011

Well I know we are in the throes of the bacchanal season "when men lose their reason; and most of us just want to wine and have a good time, because we feeling fine" (thank you King David)! Within the last few months, I have received quite a few emails from students of travel and tourism related courses at UWI and Sital. They point to issues which may be of interest to other students–even those who are not pursuing a career in the travel and tourism sector.

Let me first say, I would never pretend to be an expert in the travel and tourism industry. Rather, 14 years into it, I am still a devoted student of the industry. Hardly a day passes when I do not learn something new. It is an industry where almost any socio-economic-political-meterological event can impact on your company's or country's performance. Yes, it is a very challenging and exciting sector. For those looking to enter the sector, five things I would point out. Firstly, Trinidad's industry is perhaps still relatively 'younger' than the travel and tourism industry in say–Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia or even the United Kingdom and France. Given that the economic value is not fully recognised or realised, there may not be the range of opportunity as in other markets. But at the same time, this means that there are great growth opportunities as decision makers begin to get serious about growing the sector.

Coming out of the first point is the second–many great opportunities exist regionally, if you are prepared to relocate or travel when needed. One of my closest friends from secondary school spent the better part of the last 20 years outside of Trinidad, working in other islands. To some extent, if you return after a stint in a more dynamic market, it would enhance your ability to add value to the sector here in Trinidad as we grow. I am unashamedly optimistic when it comes to the tourism sector here in Trinidad and Tobago, it is far too important and decision makers are finally beginning to recognise its potential. Now is the time to get in.

Thirdly, yes I understand the frustration of tourism graduates who lose out to non tourism graduates for suitable job vacancies. I once heard a marketing professional who came from a local soft drink company say that selling a destination was the same as a drink. Nothing beats good industry-relevant experience combined with recognised qualifications. As our market matures, decision makers will recognise how specialised the sector truly is and will begin to value the experience that comes from doing your time in the sector. Be patient. Unfortunately, the fourth point is about the salary. All things being equal, the pay is probably below average–especially when compared to the energy sector and financial services. Let me be completely honest with you–if you judge your success in life by the size of your wallet, you may want to go elsewhere.

The fifth point however, is that this is a very fulfilling sector. I cannot remember meeting someone working in the sector who did not enjoy the industry. Not every industry can boast this. It is stressful but intrinsically rewarding as the product or experience being sold can help us as a civilisation as we seek to promote principles such as sustainable economic development, cross cultural understanding, and ecological preservation. For those of us who see life as a big book, and that each country is but a single page, this is a sector to consider. Even if you do not travel yourself, we interact with people from many varied backgrounds and cultures. A reminder of just how big and beautiful is the world that our God has created for us.

Just last week, I was asking my friend Anthony which band he and his wife are playing with this Carnival. His response was that they prefer to take the same money and go on a trip somewhere. This is a response I am getting from quite a few of my friends this year. And there are still some great late deals to be had–both domestically and regionally. Do visit your local travel agent for the hottest deals. My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.

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