One of the weaknesses that Guyana will have to overcome if it is to stake a persuasive claim as a tourism destination is the absence of the high service standards which, these days, are increasingly demanded by international travellers. Here, the problem that we face is the very fact of a globalized international community and that travellers demand more or less the same high standards wherever they may go.
To contend that our service standards are in need of significant elevation is to make the same point which some of the service providers themselves make from time to time about the need to find trained and competent staff to function in the various key areas of the service sector.
With restaurants and snackettes now proliferating the city the continually declining standards are beginning to stick out like sore thumbs.
What is also apparent is that the owners of some of those establishments have no intention of investing in training, their preoccupation being with employing young adults, who are, in most cases, underqualified for other forms of employment and who are prepared—since they have little choice—to work long hours for small wages and in some cases to endure other forms of exploitation.
Failure to identify and punish exploitative employers in the service sector, many of them owners of snackettes, has long been one of the weaknesses of the Ministry of Labour which, of course, is why more and more exploitative employers are inclined to invest in the sector. Here, the point should be made that official indifference to problems associated with the dangers of spoilt food, vermin infestation and unclean utensils, among other weaknesses has led to the conclusion that the sector is a soft target for businessmen and women who seek no more than a quick dollar.
One of the things which the announcement of the creation of a Hospitality Institute has done is to raise hopes that more and presumably better training facilities may (not will but may) mean higher standards.
In this regard it is more than a little comforting to know that the Carnegie School of Home Economics (CSHE) is one of the stakeholders in the intended institute. To its credit and over its more than eight decades of existence the CSHE has managed to maintain a sound reputation as a trainer in the various service-related disciplines. Essentially, what the authorities are hoping is that the service standards that have kept the Carnegie flag flying will impact on the new institution so that we can benefit from the higher standards for which the service sector is crying out.
That, however, will only happen if the professionals are given room to make the new institution what is ought to be. The last thing we need is the imposition of some fly-by-night training culture designed to put money into the pockets of incompetents who couldn’t care less about the damage which their incompetence does to a service sector that is already a victim of shoddy standards.