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Industry position: Technical Support Officer, Underwriting, Bahamas First General Insurance
What attracted you to the sector?
Initially I desired to be a teacher. During my high school years, however, I developed a love for economics. After summer jobs at Lloyd's and Commonwealth Bank, I became interested in banking, particularly trust administration.
How long have you been involved in financial services? What keeps you motivated?
I have been involved in financial services for the last 10 years
and have been employed at Bahamas First General Insurance for seven-and-a-half years.
I am motivated by the person that I know that I am and the potential that lies within me, along with my desire to be the best and to truly be a person of excellence. I must be my best not because someone is watching but because of me. I do not judge myself based on others' actions. I am also motivated by the support I receive from those around me. Knowing that persons are pushing you to succeed is great motivation.
Why do you think you have been successful?
I have been successful predominantly because of the favor of God.
As I reminiscence, I realize that throughout my life He has allowed me to "stand out" with various key persons who have presented me with opportunities and caused me to gain the necessary exposure.
My "success" is also due to the hard work of my parents, Bradley Pratt and Theresa Hopkins. They ensured that I was educated and that I had the tools needed to succeed. I watched them push to success in spite of obstacles. Beyond that, they loved me and pushed me to success. Just about every person that I have come into contact with has believed in me, sometimes beyond what I believed in myself. This provided a great impetus and I was driven to discover what they saw in me; in other words, to see if I could actually do and achieve what they thought I could.
Finally, I would not downplay my hard work, discipline and determination.
Did mentoring play a part in your success?
It sure did. In the personal arena, I was mentored by the late Ruthmae Bonnie Miller and I continue to be mentored by Kelson Miller. Careerwise, Oscar Sawyer "took me under his wings" when I first arrived at Bahamas First and continued to ensure that I had a firm foundation and understanding of policies throughout his time at the company.
Bonnie Nguyen may not know that I consider her a mentor but she is to me. She has helped me to grow in confidence and challenges me to perform many tasks that I would not "take on" without her guidance.
What qualifications do you feel are the most useful in helping you perform in the sector?
All of my post secondary education was geared toward financial services. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the industry. The CII courses which I became involved in after my official entry to the sector were a tremendous source of knowledge and greatly assisted my understanding, paticularly of the insurance sector.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career? How did you overcome it?
This is somewhat of a hard question for me.
My biggest challenge in my career to this point, I would say, has been wanting to be promoted too quickly. Because I know who I am and what I can do, I sometimes become frustrated with where I am. I have learned to remember that some things take time and that continued diligence, efficiency, initiative and excellence in my work and personal life will take me to where I need to be in time.
What advice would you give young people just starting out in the industry?
I would tell young people that this is definitely an interesting industry. I particularly like insurance because it "touches on" many different sectors, law, medicine, construction.
I would encourage them to work hard, work well, not get caught up in office politics, contribute and participate in work related social activities as it helps to deepen your commitment to the job and wanting to see your company succeed.
Having an open mind and believing in themselves can position them to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities that will be presented to them.
Each of the Caribbean hotel investment conferences held in April and May this year included sessions to encourage closer cooperation between the public and private sector but, immediately prior to the Caribbean Tourism Summit in mid-June, the governments of Jamaica and of Antigua and Barbuda announced significant new airport arrival taxes, with a new hotel occupancy tax also added in Jamaica. The Caribbean hotel industry's greatest fear now is that other governments will follow.
These extra charges target the region's highest spending visitors - the stay-over guests. While everyone understands the difficulties that island governments currently face in trying to balance their own budgets in times of world economic uncertainty and with increasingly youthful populations, it is a fact that much of the region's hotel industry is in deep financial crisis and has been for some considerable time. The region's largest employer and biggest direct and indirect taxpayer cannot be "the cow you take to market and milk it twice".
Today, most lower and middle market Caribbean hotels, which have significant bank loans, are in default to some degree or other. Energy and water costs on many islands are as high as US$40 per day per occupied room - with little actual utility cost differential per day per room between budget hotels charging US$80 a night and luxury resorts charging US$800 a night.
Reservation systems, like Expedia, and tour operators continue to negotiate aggressively low hotel room rates, such that Smith Travel Research projects that average room rates in the Caribbean will not recover back to 2007 dollar levels until 2014.
My own research suggests that lower end hotels will not even achieve that level of rate recovery. More tour operators are pressuring hotels for all-inclusive rates, where meals become part of the tour operator's "commissionable" package, but Caribbean hotel restaurants are already incurring operating losses in the face of escalating world food prices. Inevitably, hotel refurbishment and marketing budgets continue to be cut.
Prior to this year's two hotel investment conferences, I researched opinions from the hotel sector, relative to its perceived needs from Caribbean governments, and the following points summarize the concerns and suggested requests.
Review taxation structures for new and existing hotels, "in their role as the region's biggest export industry and foreign currency generator". Many hotels currently require major re-investment and are struggling with bank debt and increased operating costs.
Without new thinking, continuing low levels of inward investment in the sector and a downward spiral of standards are resulting in a consequent loss of global competitiveness for the overall Caribbean hotel product. At least a certain percentage of hotel taxation should go directly towards generic Caribbean global marketing in order to create world class campaigns of adequate scale.
If taxes are reduced on the hotel sector - the current principal direct/indirect "tax cow" - governments should seek to derive compensating levels of tax revenue from the following alternative targets: much higher cruise ship port fees; effective taxation of private condo/villa rental income; a wider property tax base; corporation tax increases paid by a wider range of businesses; abolish duty-free concessions for car rental companies. Governments should also take steps to re-invigorate and grow the region's agriculture and fishery industries as major components in sustainable economic activity - for export and for direct supply to the hotel/restaurant sector and to other local consumers.
Governments should simplify and improve duty-free import concessions for refurbishment of existing hotels and for development of new hotels - but also expand them to include incentives for furnished condos and villas, providing that those units are in a hotel managed formal rental program that generates taxable income on island.
This latter action will speed up the recovery of the leisure real estate market, provide construction work, ultimately generate additional tax revenue and create new fresh resort inventory with extra earning potential for the region's hotel companies. In general, current fiscal incentives are significantly better in many Central American tourism destinations than in most Caribbean countries.
In the light of rising world food prices, there is a need to eliminate import duties for hotels on all food items - not available from local sources -- and governments should actively encourage the growth potential for local food supply.
Reduce utility costs through part/full privatization of existing electricity companies in order to finance investment in better infrastructure: the proposed gas pipeline from Trinidad or on-island LNG trans-shipment facilities; replacement of old diesel generators with efficient gas turbines, hydro, wind and tidal generators.
Similar privatization of water companies should be undertaken for greater efficiency through re-investment in updated and extended infrastructure. Given likely increases in long-term energy and water demand, this is a safe investment for the region's social security funds, insurance companies, unit trusts, credit unions and private conglomerates - many of them still too risk averse to invest directly in the Caribbean hotel industry.
Re-invigorate human resources within the hotel sector and improve the industry's profile as a career choice. Governments and the hotel sector should cooperate in developing and resourcing better, larger management and operative level training facilities throughout the region. Speed up and expand CSME to effectively allow CARICOM citizen managers and specialists to work anywhere within the region. In the meantime, expeditiously grant medium-term work permits for other skilled personnel from outside the region - where their expertise helps to drive world class standards and disseminates their specialist knowledge.
All stay-over visitors to the Caribbean (except yachtsmen) arrive by air. Greatly increased UK airline and regional airport taxes continue to have a significant negative impact on air travel to, and within, the region. The UK's APD tax was highly discriminatory and costly for the Caribbean but lobbying by the public and private sector has been completely ineffective to date and must be more vigorously pursued with the UK government.
The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain can be a powerful lobby at the next UK general election, if the APD issue is successfully communicated to them. The region now faces additional potential negative effects from the proposed European Union's airline "carbon tax" and must avoid further increases in regional airport taxes.
Almost all Caribbean-based airlines are currently loss making but their ticket prices (including taxes) are some of the highest in the world per seat/mile. The private and public sector across the region should work together to help create, finance and under-write a viable pan-Caribbean international and regional carrier, which will genuinely "partner" with the rest of the Caribbean tourism industry. Meanwhile, the cruise sector, which operates in the region virtually tax free and increases its "Caribbean hotel market share" year on year, must also be forced to make its fair share contribution to government tax revenues in the region.
I do not pretend that this commentary from the Caribbean's hotel sector represents a panacea, but the region's most vital industry is on a slippery slope, with a significant part of it in danger of being decimated by strengthening world-wide competition.
It seems very likely that middle market hotels on the islands with a lower cost base, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, will survive. Highly likely too that the region's luxury resorts will survive, but what are the survival chances for some of the rest of the Caribbean's hotels, particularly older properties with significant debt finance? Some of the dominoes are already falling.
Governments and the hotel sector should communicate quickly and effectively to act together with the greatest sense of urgency. Arguably, the French market has already left for the Indian Ocean and most of the Germans for South East Asia. And some people still think, "These islands market themselves!"
o Robert MacLellan is CEO of MacLellan & Associates, the largest hospitality, tourism and leisure consultancy based in the Caribbean. He has 18 years experience in the hospitality industry in the Caribbean and was a cruise ship hotel officer and vice president, hotel services, of a cruise line earlier in his career. Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
o Author's note: This article was first published on August 27, 2012. Since then, some of the objectionable actions by those who are referred to as "Enemies of the state" have considerably degenerated. Notwithstanding vociferous objections by persons affected by the "Enemies of the state", those persons who can affect change seem either unwilling or paralyzed to deal with such persons who continue to severely damage our Commonwealth. Hence, we reprint this article hopeful that decisive action will be taken to ameliorate this situation.
Over the years, there have been persons in our society, Bahamians and foreigners, who have impacted our lives and our economy in ways that are not in the best interest of our national development. Some of those persons engage in criminal behavior. Others are simply obstructive, counterproductive and outright destructive. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This... who are some of these enemies of the state and how are their actions thwarting national development?
In its normal connotation, an enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state, such as treason. Undoubtedly, criminals and hooligans are enemies of the state. Our recent past is replete with such people and the effects of their "handiwork", so we need not dwell on them. Also, on occasion, bona fide freedom fighters or political dissidents have been characterized by authoritarian regimes as enemies of the state.
However, for our purposes, we prefer to address those persons who are neither crooks, freedom fighters nor political activists. There are more subtle enemies of the state who live among us and parade around in business suits and hold high office. Such persons include regulators, foreign consultants and a misinformed and ignorant media.
It is amazing how destructive some regulators can be to our economy. Regulators are established to ensure that individuals and businesses comply with the relevant legislation governing their activities. While there are some regulators who perform their responsibilities competently, too many Bahamians complain about being frustrated by regulators themselves or by those persons and institutions that are heavily regulated.
A clear example of this is the simple exercise of opening a bank account in The Bahamas. From personal experience and that of clients, friends and acquaintances, the simple act of opening a bank account becomes a major production that can take days, if not weeks. This makes absolutely no sense and some of our banking regulators and the regulated banks have become some of the biggest enemies of the state in this regard. It is ludicrous for our citizens to have to endure such exasperating practices, simply because our legislators chose to kowtow to those foreign elements who forced us to change our banking industry a decade ago.
The contrast is stark. Two weeks ago, I walked into a United States bank and opened a bank account in 15 minutes. I did not reside in the state in which the bank account was opened, did not have a home there, was not required to produce a utility bill or any such regulatory nonsense that the enemies of the state impose on us here.
Then there are regulators of several Bahamian industries who make it their life's goal to frustrate Bahamian citizens and businesses. We are aware of at least two instances where foreign institutions that operate in The Bahamas, and are therefore regulated here, were told that (1) in the case where the regulated institution was Bahamian owned, that they must seek a foreign investor to be its business partner in order to "enhance its credibility" and (2) in the case where a Bahamian investor group was seeking to acquire a regulated institution, the foreign owners were told by the banking regulator that the latter would be more comfortable if the vendor sought a non-Bahamian purchaser. This is a blatant pernicious example of how some regulators act as enemies of the state.
We are also aware of other regulators who frustrate Bahamians by requiring superfluous information, and who impose overly-burdensome and costly procedures and sometimes extend the regulatory process beyond reasonably expected time frames.
There are several common characteristics that have been observed about some of these enemies of the state:
1. Some regulators are often career bureaucrats who never had a job in the private sector and, if they did, never excelled in their jobs and therefore returned to the public sector where they were promoted to senior positions, ultimately morphing into super-bureaucrats whose primary objective is to frustrate and obfuscate;
2. Some regulators have never taken the risk of starting a business because the most miniscule iota of entrepreneurial acumen escapes them, and often prevents them from understanding how things operate in the "real business world";
3. Some regulators have never had to produce a payroll for their staff because they work for an institution where their salaries are guaranteed by the state; and
4. Some regulators are often privy to the personal wealth of individuals whom they regulate and are jealous of the latter's successes. Consequently, instead of assisting such persons, their myopic regulatory perspectives and practices often achieve the intended effect of thwarting the progress and advancement of the persons whom they regulate, sometimes with a damaging effect on domestic output.
Bahamians seem to have a perpetual love affair with foreign consultants. This is especially true of some politicians and high-level bureaucrats. Bahamians would be astounded if they really knew how much of the public purse is spent annually on foreign consultants. A classic example of this was the recent privatization of BTC, where many tens of millions of dollars were spent on consultants in what can best be described as an agonizing and astoundingly poorly executed privatization exercise.
Bahamians need to be far more demanding of their government when it comes to foreign consultants who are enemies of the state because these individuals often provide services that can very easily be offered by highly trained Bahamians.
Misinformation and ignorance
Perhaps the biggest enemy of the state is ignorance. Every day, enemies of the state perpetuate this ignorance and misinformation in our media and on the various blogs and social media sites. Sometimes it does not involve lying, but rather contorting the truth or omitting all the facts. Sometimes this is caused by ignorance of the exact facts, exacerbated by laziness in pursuing those facts to their source in order to glean the actual, seminal truth of the situation. Sometimes this is caused by agendas that exist deep within our so-called balanced media practitioners.
It is those hidden agendas that cause things to be presented to an unsuspecting and trusting public in ways that cleverly erode and undermine the beneficial policies of the state. It is those agendas that cause information to be imparted in an insidiously slanted and unbalanced way in order to please and promote one side over another. Those who do this are clearly enemies of the state.
The blogs and social media sites that impart their versions of the truth oftentimes are perceived as purveyors of the truth instead of what they really are: disseminators of self-serving rhetoric, often driven by purely political motivation and/or mischief. The individuals behind these sites are determined and committed, and their sometimes vile and always hard-hitting tone is crafted to destabilize belief systems, damage reputations and call motives into question. These are not places to find truth and concern for the welfare of the state. Therefore, these places, the bitter blogs and the poisonous social media sites, can also sometimes become enemies of the state.
Nothing is more important to a healthy democracy than an informed electorate that is ever vigilant about these enemies that seek to undermine our state. Whenever they raise their ugly faces, we must be ready to stop them.
The most effective means to rid ourselves of these enemies of the state is to identify them, to call them out into the light and to take them on before they destroy our lives, our economy and our country.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Century-old provider of commercial real estate services will transition CEO role in anticipation of next phase of companyís growth. The Beck Group announced that CEO Peter Beck assumed the position of executive chairman focusing on marketing, strategy and international operations as of January 1, 2013. Fred Perpall, who most recently served as The Beck Groupís Managing Principal and Director of Design of the Eastern Division, has been named the new CEO.
I rise to speak on the 2010/2011 Budget package of Bills
I do so, ever grateful to the wonderful people of the Mount Moriah Constituency, who have been an integral part of my life and work since 1987, (23 years ago) when I first contested the Oakes Field Constituency. As I contribute to the Budget debate for the 18th consecutive time, I thank the people of Mount Moriah, and publicly acknowledge my love and commitment to them.
Address to the 7th Annual Caribbean MBA Conference by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham:
When the United Nations last week urged countries with high Haitian refugee populations to stop repatriations, the highly emotional and contentious issues surrounding The Bahamas' own immigration challenges once again took center stage.
The U.N. argues that the conditions in the impoverished country continue to be "precarious" since the January 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The Bahamas, which temporarily halted repatriations to Haiti following the earthquake, says that if a formal request is made, it will be taken under consideration. Illegal Haitian migration places a heavy burden on the local economy.
It's an issue that is always there but the approach to tackling the country's immigration issues -- largely surrounding Haitians -- has been an obvious challenge for successive governments due in large part to limited resources and some would say, a lack of planning.
The Bahamas' challenge of illegal migration was a topic of a 2003 confidential U.S. Embassy cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
The cable, headlined, "Challenges of Illegal Migration; Can The Bahamas Manage?" addressed the need for The Bahamas to add a mass migration contingency component to its ongoing natural disaster planning.
The cable stated that the Department of Immigration was unprepared for mass migration. Then Director of Immigration Vernon Burrows admitted to Nancy Iris, Deputy Director for the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration (PRM) who visited Nassau from October 13 - October 17, 2003 that "migration is a scary issue for us. We can't handle more (migrants) than we already have," according to the cable.
At that time, the Carmichael Road Detention Center had the capacity to house 500 migrants indoors, with enough land to erect tents to provide shelter for an additional 500 detainees. At the time there were just under 200 people being detained, the majority being Haitians and Cubans.
"If there should be a sudden increase in these numbers, there is no GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) plan for how to attain the additional food, beds, or shelter.
"Burrows suggested that GCOB has no contingency plan for a spike in migration, although this was disputed by other government officials who claimed that a draft plan is under preparation."
The cable also noted the "complexity and inefficiency" of processing asylum requests in The Bahamas. Once one of the few trained senior immigration officials has completed the interview, the information is sent to UNHCR in Washington for an assessment of the case.† Their recommendation is then forwarded to the Department of Immigration, who then passes it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cabinet approval.
According to the cable, the senior immigration official who spoke with Ms. Iris admitted that this is a slow and laborious process, especially given that the final designation must be made by Cabinet, "an unusually high level of decision making for such a determination".
"The senior official told Ms. Iris that where Cubans are automatically pre screened for asylum, Haitians must request the interview.† Few Haitians actually request an interview for asylum, perhaps because they believe their efforts would be futile," according to the cable.
"Haitians are also at a disadvantage in the interview process because there is no full-time Creole-speaker at the detention center, and despite relatively high Haitian' migrants' rate of illiteracy, there is limited help in filling out the requisite forms for seeking asylum.† For calendar year 2002, only four migrants were given refugee status, according to Bahamian officials."
The cable also noted that the Detention Center used to house illegal migrants appeared inadequate in terms of space and services given the number of detainees housed there.
"Children held at this facility are given no access to education even if their length of stay extends for several months.† Limited healthcare, restricted access to outside communication and legal advice, difficulty in obtaining toiletries and necessary clothing, and small food portions are the main complaints from migrants.
"Should the Detention Center ever receive a large increase in its numbers, (an official) admitted that the sewage and plumbing systems, security and the current food distribution method would be woefully inadequate."
There were also concerns of an uprising should the migrants' numbers increase, as various ethnic groups of different languages and cultures are held in the same dorms at a time.
A political mine field
A U.S. Embassy official concluded in a separate cable that the bottom line for The Bahamas on Haiti "is the fear of mass migration and doing anything that might trigger an outflow".
This concern was highlighted in a Confidential 2003 cable headlined "Bahamas Unlikely to Pressure Aristide." While then Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell acknowledged problems with democracy in Haiti at the time, he made it clear to U.S. Embassy officials that The Bahamian government preferred continued engagement with President Aristide to any type of public confrontation.
"Mitchell's main concern is doing whatever he can to slow down illegal immigration from Haiti -- a key domestic political imperative -- and he has been fruitless pursing an immigration accord with the Government of Haiti for several months," according to the cable.
The cable noted that Mitchell in particular made conclusion of an immigration agreement his top foreign policy priority. "Our sources in the Immigration Department tell us the negotiations are not going well, stalled over Haitian insistence on an amnesty for the 30,000 - 100,000 Haitians already in The Bahamas (most illegally)," stated the cable.
"Such concession would be suicide for Mitchell in the xenophobic Bahamian political landscape. "
According to the cable, the pursuit of that agreement and any other means to slow down migration would continue to push any concerns for democracy and human rights into the backseat.
"While The Bahamas will remain engaged on Haiti, the Christie government will resist any effort to put real teeth into any diplomatic effort to Pressure Aristide, preferring (endless) conversation and dialogue to the alternative," the cable stated.
A thorny issue
The issue of Haitian migration obviously goes beyond the country's capacity to deal with a mass influx, or the political fallout of such an event.
The topic of illegal immigration and how to stem its flow and impact on the country spurs heated discussions. Author and playwright and Nassau Guardian columnist Ian Strachan recently wrote in his East St. Blues column that the Haitian "problem" is shaped by a number of factors.
"Haitian migrants are a crucial source of cheap, reliable, motivated labor, particularly in the agricultural sector.† Increasingly, however, as the middle class shrinks and the ranks of the Bahamian working poor swell, there is growing resentment toward Haitian immigrants and their children because they are now competing for jobs deemed above their social station," Strachan writes.
"Where once a Haitian only worked as a gardener, farmer, grounds keeper or "handyman"--work young Bahamian men have looked down on for the past forty years--they are now working at gas stations, in hardware stores, and gaining employment as masons and carpenters, jobs Bahamian men have dominated.† Many a Bahamian contractor prefers Haitian immigrant labor to Bahamian, not simply because it is cheaper, but because it is better.
"There is also the real and perceived strain on national services, such as education and health care, created by the immigrant influx.† And there are national security concerns, fed by the fear of Haitian immigrants 'violent' people.† Added to this are Bahamians' fears of cultural erasure, and political/economic displacement due to the perception of Haitians as a lurking enemy intent on 'taking over'."
Well-known businessman Rick Lowe, in a recent letter to the editor wrote that the approach to finding a permanent solution to the country's immigration issues has been "lackadaisical".
Lowe offered the following suggestions:
o Policing of illegal immigrants who are here must be improved.
o Legalize the status of many of the Haitians who have been here for generations.
o Provide property rights for the squatters and figure out how to phase their status in so they can eventually become full citizens or leave voluntarily.
The U.S. Embassy cables also note the sensitive social issues connected to the Haitian population in The Bahamas.
"Bahamians strongly resent the social cost, cultural impact, and crime linked - in popular stereotypes certainly - to Haitian immigration.† These sentiments are confirmed in contacts with government officials, political activists, especially the youth, and NGO leaders who interact with both communities," the Americans observed in a cable.
"Haitians are thought to impose disproportionate demands on inadequate social services, primarily health and education, due to the higher birth rate in the Haitian community."
These issues, the Americans observed, have the potential to explode someday in The Bahamas if constructive policies are not introduced to further integration.
Immigration is a national issue that will no doubt top any administration's national agenda and will require some tough and politically tough decisions.
A final consultative workshop on repositioning and restructuring of the Department of Cooperative Development has been told that the department will be allowed greater flexibility that will enable it to respond in a timely manner to the ever-changing needs and opportunities facing its client enterprises.
Addressing the workshop, held December 2, Minister of Agriculture Marine Resources and Local Government V. Alfred Gray said that the department will become a "respected, competent, authority responsible for marketing, developing, monitoring, and supervising registered societies, with emphasis on education, professional services and compliance".
The workshop was held at the Russell Road offices of the Bahamas Cooperative League Limited, where participants discussed the national policy, the strategic plan, the new bill, and regulations.
Gray said the department, subsidized by an annual government grant, will exert greater control over its expenditure and revenue generation, and will be allowed to operate with "greater flexibility, efficiency and vigor".
"The department will focus on improving the organizational management and financial skills of members, employees and leaders of registered cooperatives, who will also be empowered to access new technologies to improve relevance and profitability," said Gray.
He said the operations of the producer/services cooperatives will be strengthened through collaboration with various departments and agencies such as the departments of Agriculture and Marine Resources, The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Society (BAIC), the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency (SMEDA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The Department of Cooperatives believes that by stirring up a new passion in the sector their efforts will result in greater efficiencies and higher productivity, a more inclusive sector strategy that will positively impact the macro-economic landscape, the creation of more jobs and increased income, and stimulation of growth through youth empowerment, innovation, and improved management.
Gray said with effective marketing the general public will be made aware of the nature, uniqueness, and benefits of cooperatives.
He said it is anticipated that the department will identify and strengthen at least four vibrant, model co-ops each year for the next three years from the services, agriculture and fisheries sectors.
Gray said in order for all this to come to fruition, a broader base of professional disciplines and fresh talents will be required for stimulating new confidence in the reliability of the department of cooperative development.
"Careful recruitment and appointment of trainable persons with the right attitude, specialized knowledge and competencies will make the breakthrough for the re-engineered process and the new co-ops dispensation," said Gray.
Company: Front office manager, British Colonial Hilton
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Andrew: I started work in the field of hospitality in 1991 on the front desk at the Casuarinas Hotel on West Bay Street. I then moved to The Sheraton Grand Hotel on Paradise Island in 1992 until 1999, when I was given the opportunity to be a part of the team at the Hilton Hotel downtown.
Within my present role I am responsible for the front desk, concierge, valet, pool, beach and gym and the executive lounge, which hosts our top tier guests.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Andrew: The various daily activities are very exciting. Everyday brings new challenges and the opportunity to meet people from around the world. No two days are the same, especially when working along with people from various cultures and backgrounds.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Andrew: I have had so many, from meeting royalty (most recently Prince Harry) and celebrities, to being selected to work in Minneapolis to work for Hilton, to administering CPR to a child that had a coin lodged in her throat. Overall, the hotel industry has been very good to me.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Andrew: The industry has changed drastically; guests are much more knowledgeable about the product and services and aspects of the daily operation have truly evolved into a science from a revenue standpoint. Overall, customer service is very demanding and we have had to rise to the challenge in order to remain competitive.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Andrew: We as a country must become more service oriented. I feel that we have strayed away from a true service culture and must focus on regaining this. As our number one industry, training needs to be introduced earlier in high school education in order to groom those that wish to become tourism professionals. The establishment of a BGCSE in hospitality would be great! Also, due to the high operating cost locally, there should be further concessions, especially to smaller branded hotels in order to attract them to us.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Andrew: Stay focused on your goals and try to gain a strong educational base and work on your language skills. Work and interact with as many people as possible in order to help you decide if you have skill of working along with people. Be patient but aggressive and take on any opportunities for advancement that may come your way.