ROSE HALL, St James — More than 240 students and educators from 22 schools and universities across the country gathered to explore the theme of 'Tourism and Green Investments' during the Tourism Awareness Week 2023 Youth Forum. The turnout was more than expected.
"The event was very successful. We had not intended to have so many schools participating this year, simply because of some of the distances and it is the start of the school term, etc. But the feedback was absolutely wonderful, and schools were prepared to come on their own, if necessary," manager of the Tourism Information Center, Essie Gardner told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.
The event was held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Held every year during Tourism Awareness Week, the forum focuses on providing young people with an opportunity to provide their thoughts on the United Nations World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) annual topic. This year's theme sought to highlight the need to invest in people, planet and prosperity.
Participants included members from the Tourism Action Club in high schools and the Tourism Society in tertiary institutions. Organisers provided them with broad guidelines and then allowed their creativity to flow freely.
"You have to learn about the industry as a participant. It also is an opportunity for you to work and contribute, and it is also a form of learning about your country," explained Gardner.
"Different clubs will focus on different areas, especially those clubs that are in rural areas which have some buildings and so on. They kind of look at that as their heritage and they try to do things around that. Some of them do a lot more research and so on," she added.
Holland High School student and president of her school's Tourism Action Club, Jahniqué Stoddard was among the participants. She has no intention of pursuing a career in tourism — she wants to be a paediatric nurse— but she has a genuine interest in the field. She described the day's event as "exceptional".
"I learned a lot and I hope to be here next year not only to view everything that happened, but to experience all the different competitions and to participate so that I can win prizes and surprises as well," she said.
She hopes more of her peers will join the club she heads.
"You learn a lot and you can let others know what Jamaica is all about," stated Stoddard.
Also in attendance was president of the Tourism Society at The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Anthony McKenzie. He was pleased with the content provided throughout the day.
"It was wonderful. We got a lot of information about tourism, the different sectors that come together to provide tourism products and services that are necessary to continue our tourism products in Jamaica," he told the Observer.
"We learned that there are many things that we have not been utilising efficiently. We have also highlighted the sustainable practices that we can and should be encouraging, but also be a part of. And not only that but facilitate some of these things through outreaches to activities and even bonding with each other, discussing tourism and beyond that," added McKenzie.
However, he noted that there was room for improvement in staging future events and he suggested a greater planning role for students.
"I'm certain that some of the students, even at the tertiary level, UTech and UWI, could help them organise some of these things because we do have courses that facilitate this type of activity," stated McKenzie.