Sandals responds to the hearing impaired
SANDALS Montego Bay has expanded its language bank from the traditional spoken language notably Spanish, Italian, German and French by training 13 staff members in the art of signing.
The main objective is to position itself to meet the needs of a growing hearing-impaired travel market internationally.
On Tuesday, the resort held a special graduation ceremony for team members who had completed an intensive training programme, under the direction of sign language instructors from the Caribbean Centre for the Deaf, Belinda Dalley and Mark Brown. The graduates were selected from a cross-section of departments including grounds and gardens, housekeeping, bar, public relations, entertainment, front office, accounts, sales and dining room. Initial training started in October culminating in two weeks of intense training
“The objective of this exercise is to ensure that team members would now be competent to communicate with the hearing impaired,” general manager, Horace Peterkin said, noting that the hotel already plays host to several couples per year.
“Having sign language competent team members will enable us to provide the same level of attention and service to the hearing impaired as we now provide to our hearing guests,” he said.
He added that sign language is the fourth most used language in the United States.
According to Peterkin, statistics indicate that there are at least 2.5 million hearing-impaired persons living in the United States, a significant percent of whom are ready willing and able to travel.
“If Jamaica could capture five per cent of this market, we could improved our current 1.3 million stopover arrivals by nearly 10 per cent said Peterkin, who is also a vice-president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA). “If we act now we will have the advantage as no other Caribbean destination is focussing on this market segment. In addition to being known as the all-inclusive destination, Jamaica could become the specialist destination for the deaf.”
According to Peterkin, four years ago, the Sandals chain equipped all properties with a closed caption decoder machine for use by hearing impaired guests.
“However, Sandals Montego has taken this several steps further by identifying and training sign language ambassadors,” he added.
The hotel has already struck a deal with a California travel group which specialises in the market.
“So now that we are fully equipped the business will definitely follow,” the general manager remarked.
During the graduation ceremony, he urged the students to passionately practice the language and to be the best ambassadors they can be for the property and the country.
“If we do a good job with the first ones, they will become our ambassadors,” he said.
Delivering the keynote address at the ceremony, general manager in charge of the regional offices of the Jamaica Tourist Board, Pat Samuels, congratulated the resort on this innovation. She said because of the training of these staff members, many persons who are hearing impaired can jump at this opportunity to visit Jamaica, and Sandals Montego Bay.
“This is because of the acquisition of this new language facility, a whole new world of experiences now await the newly trained graduates on one hand and the guests on the other. They will both find that their horizons have been expanded and enriched from the two-way communication that is now made possible,” the JTB official said.
“Sandals can now participate fully in the tourism process, as they retool to cater to a wider variety of guests. This will of course result in higher occupancy levels, and everyone will reap the benefits,” she added. “You are armed with the new skills, to not only be able to communicate to the six percent of the hearing impaired of this world by the use of sign language, but also to sharpen your observation skills.”
At the ceremony, the students performed in sign language to gospel and inspiration songs.
According to human resources manager, Ulla Wright, training will continue on a reduced level over the next few months.
She added that the resort would be organising interaction with students from the Caribbean School For The Deaf to ensure the gleaning of further knowledge.