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PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS From left: Richard Bourke of the Trelawny Chamber of Commerce; Jamaica Tourist Board Regional Director Janice Allen, chairman of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association Montego Bay Chapter; Robert Headley; moderator, Patrick Prendergast; Hope Markes of Hope Markes Villas; and Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry third vice-president Brian Brown form the panel in a round-table discussion at the UWI Mona-Western Jamaica Campus research symposium on Thursday, October 13, in Montego Bay.
From left: Patrick Prendergast, UWI Mona-Western Jamaica Campus director and keynote speaker; and Robert Headley, chairman of the Montego Bay Chapter of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association, spoke with ‘Hospitality Jamaica’ prior to the commencement of activities at the research symposium held on the said campus on Thursday, October 13, in Montego Bay.

Challenges and opportunities in tourism and linkage industries

Paul H. Williams, Hospitality Jamaica Writer

Last Thursday, the University of the West Indies, Mona-Western Jamaica Campus (WJC), hosted its first research symposium under the theme 'Challenges and Opportunities in Tourism Linkages Industries'.

Prior to the commencement of the activities, Hospitality Jamaica spoke with Patrick Prendergast, campus director, about the objectives of the symposium. He said it was "essentially an opportunity for us to demonstrate how the UWI, Mona-Western Jamaica Campus in particular, needs to be engaged with the community".

He reasoned that the campus does not exist in isolation, but is part of the city of Montego Bay, the capital of tourism in Jamaica. And so the campus needs to engage with the rest of the city as there is a "significant gap", which the university is seeking to close, especially through research, as this drives academic and institutional development.

In essence, research carried out by the university should benefit the wider Montego Bay community from a developmental perspective. Research then, should minimise and find solutions to the challenges that exist between tourism and linkage industries such as agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and entertainment.


Prendergast also said that while people are focusing on the linkages between tourism and other mainstream industries, "There are linkages to be made in terms of education ... even the possibilities of educational tourism or tourism in education".

The symposium also aimed to give an opportunity to young researchers at the university to expose the work that they are doing.

"This research symposium is ... a commitment to our academic staff, students, and the wider society that we believe in engaging the academic world with the practical world" Prendergast stated to the gathering.

In keeping with the theme, Robert Headley, chairman of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Montego Bay chapter, said, "The major challenges in tourism linkage with the domestic economy include the inability to supply in large quantities; inconsistencies in supply; inferior quality of products, namely in agriculture; and for the manufacturing sector, the challenge of support in promoting locally produced goods to foreign investors".

The solutions that Headley recommended were the creation of agro-parks in which farmers pool their resources to satisfy tourism-sector demands; the engagement of the Rural Agriculture Development Agency and the Ministry of Industry Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries in the monitoring of the quality of produce to ensure that they meet the standards set by the hospitality industry; and the promotion by JAMPRO of local products to international investors.

The plenary address was given by Nadia Grant-Reid of the Western Jamaica Campus's Department of Economics, who spoke about 'Models of Partnership: Academia and Industry'. She said that a synergy could exist between the university and the industries, with both sides benefiting from the symbiotic relationship.

However, Grant-Reid also said it was difficult to forge successful relationships between universities and industries as there is a gap between the two sides. Hospitality was singled out. "There seems to be an absence of a ... research culture in the faculties of hospitality in many universities," she said. "The problem is magnified in developing countries such as Jamaica."


She also noted that "many practitioners in the hospitality industry do not believe that the research put out by these faculties is applicable to real-world situations".

Yet, Grant-Reid cited the examples of Stanford University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of South Carolina, which have established very successful partnerships with industries.

"No more should the goal of academia be to advance knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of innovation and economic growth," Grant-Reid said in closing.

In the round-table discussion on 'opportunities and challenges in the tourism industry', one of the stand-out observations concerning the university partnering with tourism and linkages industries came from Janice Allen, Jamaica Tourist Board regional director.

She said that the time was ripe for the university to be more proactive and to be at the forefront of what the sector needed to know about the industry, both from the side of academia and the side of the practitioner, but it must be with speed. 

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