The recent appointment of a second Barbadian to the post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Grenada Tourism Authority and the justification given by the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Barbadian born Mr Barry Collymore, that there was no suitably qualified Grenadian applying for the post just blows my mind! The nonsensical reasons given by him, that the newly- appointed CEO has the necessary experience and contacts to pick up the phone and call British Airways or any other airline, and also to represent the destination in trade shows abroad is simply laughable and disclosed his lame explanation for the recent appointment of his fellow Barbadian to the GTA.
Wow, are you telling me that there are no Grenadians qualified enough to fill that post Mr Collymore and why is this process seemingly rushed? When I worked at the Grenada Board of Tourism junior marketing officers picked up the phone and called airlines, they travelled to several source markets and represented us at trade shows, we networked with the trade and media, organized successful events from Head Office, evaluated results and took necessary and corrective actions. We learned the lesson that if you have the marketing dollars all airlines and wholesalers will reach out to you to do business and relationships are fostered. Please Mr Collymore, do not insult the intelligence of Grenadians.
Let us look at what happened before this latest appointment. We had a Barbadian in the person of Mr Ruddy Grant. Noteworthy, Mr Grant came to Grenada based on recommendations made by Mr Noel Lynch, a former Minister for Tourism in Barbados, who was hired to chart the way and transition the then Grenada Board of Tourism to the Grenada Tourism Authority. Of course, he did a “good job”, by recommending his countryman, colleague and friend, Mr Ruddy Grant, to the post of CEO.
After the departure of Mr Grant, we then hired Ms Patricia Maher who managed the Digicel telephone company in Grenada as his replacement.
We have not learnt our lesson as a destination and we are certainly delivering on our much infamous; tagline “Grenada, where everyone is free to roam and wonder”! I must state that I have nothing against Mrs Roach or Mr Grant or the recently departed Ms Patricia Maher or any non-national working here, however, I believe that the job of CEO of the GTA, must come from the “belly” of Grenada. Nobody else but a Grenadian should hold that position from a point of knowledge and cultural connection to the destination.
Here are my reasons:
1. There are numerous Grenadians who are qualified academically and with the necessary experience to do this job effectively. To research, plan, execute and evaluate plans and programmes for the industry is not rocket science. We have done it before and can do it like no other.
2. There are some jobs that are culturally appropriate for Grenadians and must be reserved for us; the CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority is one of them. A Grenadian knows the tourism product and will be able to sell it with a passion like no other can. We can differentiate and position “Brand Grenada” like no one can. In the case of Ms. Roach, when she opens her mouth, the ‘speech brand’ is Barbadian, giving rise to a level of difficulty to determine who she is representing.
3.The appointment of a non- Grenadian lengthens the learning curve whereas the destination needs someone to “hit the ground running”. In this case, Ms Roach must take time to know the Grenadian product and its nuances. After all, one can only sell what the destination offers and be sufficiently passionate in persuading potential visitors to demand /buy it. Being in tourism is one thing; intimately knowing the product, especially its “soul”, the people, is another.
I believe that the destination has been left on autopilot for too long and certainly needs some new and local talents to push it forward and upwards. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (2021), Grenada, before Hurricane Ivan, was welcoming over 142,355 stayover visitors. It took us over 10 years to get past that figure. The latest statistics by the GTA, revealed that Grenada welcomed 162,902 stayover visitors in 2019. (GTA Preliminary Statistics, 2019) Let’s get serious! If we need to increase these numbers and take this industry forward, it must be grounded in sustainability and that means the right ecological, socio- cultural and economic practices. The employment of a qualified Grenadian fits the bill of economic and ‘common-sense’ sustainability.
We must plan this industry carefully, look for long term benefits in terms of appropriate investment in room stock versus real estate development; employing our own and training them to manage the industry, making decisions based on sound research and rationale and facilitating the linkages with other industries; especially agriculture and fisheries. We simply cannot allow a few persons on the island to make every decision for the tourism industry. We are part of the tourism product too and our input on who is hired matters; as does the type of tourism development we invest in.
Imagine we are in the 21st century and the powers governing our tourism industry are inferring that there are no Grenadian suitable for this job, as the last two appointments were non-nationals. It is not true, and it is not right! The policy seems to be that one of the highest paid job in the Grenada Public Sector must be given to an outsider, whether regional or otherwise. Shame on those who do not see it fit to invest in our people and shame on those who do not believe in our academic qualifications, talents, and experiences!