The UWI named among winners of the Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards
The main gates to the UWI Mona campus on Mona Road (file photo)

A collaborative project undertaken by The University of the West Indies (The UWI) — together with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management (FS) — to support MSMEs through upskilling and digitalisation, was announced as a winner of the 2022 Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards.

Since 2000 the region's tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), has organised the Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Awards to highlight the impactful, sustainable, tourism actions by its member countries. The Business Adaptation Programme, developed to assist tourism MSMEs in the eastern Caribbean, received the 2022 Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Award in the category of Tourism Education and Training, and was honoured at a virtual awards ceremony held on Wednesday, February 15, 2023.

In 2021 The UWI and FS were invited by the UNDP's office for Barbados and the eastern Caribbean to partner in assisting more than 300 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to increase their digital skills resilience to external shocks and to access new markets within the tourism value chain. The UNDP Future Tourism Project was formulated as a response to the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism sector and its subsequent impact on MSMEs.

On receiving the award Miguel Guirao, project coordinator from UNDP, shared, "For UNDP, receiving this award was both an honour and a major milestone. We are committed to supporting the resilience of the region, and MSMEs are key players in this sphere. Through our Future Tourism Project, UNDP was able to not only provide funding to help MSMEs digitally transform their businesses, but we also expanded the technical capacity of the region's entrepreneurs. We are grateful for the support of our partners to achieve this honour that serves as a testament that we are achieving our goal of supporting Caribbean communities towards the achievement of the SDGs [sutainable development goals]."

Dr Michelle McLeod, a tourism expert on The UWI COVID-19 Task Force with over 30 years of tourism experience, led the project's implementation on behalf of The UWI. Through a series of online sessions hosted by the University's Open Campus the MSMEs were equipped with tailored training, coaching and mentorship, informed of steps to digitalisation, and provided with information regarding digital technologies, marketing, and financial planning.

Reacting to the award Dr McLeod said, "I am so proud to have been the UWI Open Campus consultant on this project. It was great working with partners Frankfurt School and UNDP. Many congratulations to all the MSME beneficiaries in the eastern Caribbean."

She continued, "The Business Adaptation Programme has to be made sustainable to contribute to the overall development of MSMEs in the broader Caribbean. Tourism is the mainstay of several Caribbean economies, and tourism MSMEs account for more than 90 per cent of the businesses in those economies. Training and development of tourism MSMEs will contribute to sustainable growth and innovation of the tourism sector in the Caribbean."

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