JHTA head laments low number of men in tourism workforce
RUSSELL... tourism has the space at all levels — from general managers to waiters to housekeepers — that need people. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Robin Russell is urging more men to get involved in the tourism sector where several job opportunities are available.

Russell's comments came against the backdrop of recent pronouncements by several players in the tourism industry regarding a shortage of workers as the sector rebounds from the ravages of COVID-19.

The pandemic, which hit Jamaica in March 2020, is said to have caused a massive exodus of workers as the tourism sector was shuttered with many workers opting to remain outside the industry after taking on new roles during that time.

While the challenge remains with worker retention, Russell has further identified the shortage of male employees in the industry becoming an issue.

"It is a problem, it really is a problem," Russell told the Jamaica Observer.

"It is a problem, as I see it, as our men are missing in action. I would like to appeal to our young men to get into the workforce. Too many men are dying in car accidents and by the gun and the higher percentage are young men who should be productive in the society," charged Russell.

The local tourism sector is now seeing a massive recovery with tourist arrivals expected to be record-breaking during this year, especially during the winter season. With this in mind, Russell said opportunities are there for there for Jamaican men to take advantage of.

"Tourism has the space at all levels — from general managers to waiters to housekeepers — that need people, and men should be filling some of these positions, not just women," declared Russell.

"There are so many things that the young men can look to outside of that, in providing services to tourism. There's farming, manufacturing, the creative sector, there's just many different aspects to tourism," he added.

Russell, who is manager of Montego Bay, St James-based Deja Resort, explained that while he didn't have the numbers, he was sure that women outnumbered men in the sector. He told the Observer that he was looking at 70-30 per cent ratio in favour of women in his establishment.

While he was not against women being the greater number of employees, Russell however said the situation calls for balance.

"If we don't have a proper balance, the sector will not grow properly. If it is only women getting jobs, what going to happen?" he questioned.

He argued, too, that the opportunities for men in the tourism industry do not require a lot in terms of qualifications and that there are organisations in the sector which provide the training required to their workers.

"Tourism doesn't necessarily mean that you need to have formal education. You need to be trained and there are so many institutions providing that training [such as] the HEART/NSTA Trust and the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation," said Russell as he pointed out that when some young men not working, they might instead engage in activities that have negative connotations for society.

"I find it as a worrying trend actually across the nation. Too many of our boys are being killed on the road, being killed in gang activities and not finishing school and continuing on to tertiary education," Russell stated.

"These boys are being left by the way and they are just not meaningfully employed," the JHTA president added.

He underscored that crime is holding back the true potential of Jamaica and noted that the tourism sector is affected as well.

"When you kill 1,500 people a year, of which, I think is 80 per cent of them are young men, you're losing your people. When you have these accidents on the road and you have [approximately] 500 fatalities every year and of this three, four hundred are young men riding bikes or driving too fast, you're losing your male population unnecessarily," Russell lamented.

"These are young men that should be gainfully employed, building families and building the nation," he added.

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