Three Hospitality Management students from the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College received the experience of a lifetime when they were invited with the government to the National Organization of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) in Miami Florida.
The event, held from Wednesday, October 6, to Friday, October 8, at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, attracted some of the most influential black hotel owners, operators and developers from brands such as the Marriot, the Hyatt and the Hilton.
The three students who made the trip with Premier Hon. Washington Misick, Minister of Tourism Hon. Josephine Connolly and Deputy CEO for InvestTCI Angela Musgrove, were Jerrika Francis, Danae Dennie and Christy Ewing.
Michelle Hosten, Head of the Tourism and Hospitality Department at the Community College, and who chaperoned the students on the trip, told NewslineTCI that the event opened up the opportunity for future internships at some of those black-owned and operated resorts.
“They gave us this grand opportunity to attend this trade show and exhibition,” Hosten said.
“We were able to network and learn from them. They were also investing in students. Even though their investment was in the U.S. with the HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) schools, they promised to help the Caribbean schools with internship and mentorship.
“So, we are going to tap into that so that, and our students will able to get some international exposure.”
Hosten said she was also dazzled by the presentations made by Premier Misick and Tourism Minister Connolly.
“They really sold TCI. Their presentations were mesmerizing,” she exclaimed.
Jerrika Francis – a second-year student at the college was happy to have been among the trio chosen to make the trip. For her, it was an event that expanded her hospitality management scope.
“Basically, I learned a lot and it expanded my horizon when it comes to the Tourism Industry. I also networked there. There was a guy who spoke about because of COVID, there was a shortage (of staff) in his hotel.
“So we later approached him and asked him because of the shortage, if he wouldn’t mind us coming to the United States to do our internship, and he gave us his contact information. So, hopefully, 2022 summer we would get to do our internship in the United States of America,” she said.
Danae, also a second-year student at the institution, said overall it was an event that unleashed her passion for the industry even more.
“It was a wonderful experience. I was elated when I found out that I was chosen to attend,” she said gleefully. “I got to speak with so many CEOs and presidents of different hotels. Being there definitely inspired me to want to create a resort, a hotel or villa. So I was grateful for the opportunity.
“It was very informative. My favorite session was the ‘Women in Tourism Industry’ session. It was really good. We got to learn that we have to be bold and make room for ourselves if there is no other room that fits our interest.”
Christy, a first-year student at the institution, said also that she was motivated by what she saw and heard at the event. She explained that speaking, with the various CEOs spurs her interest much more than before.
“They gave me advice that widened my perspective on the tourism industry and the things you can do. Also, my favorite session was the women’s conference. It really opened my mind even more and makes me want to become a hotel owner in the future as well,” she said.
For her part, Minister of Education Hon. Rachel Taylor, who was on hand on Sunday, October 10, at the Providenciales International Airport to welcome back the students, was grateful to all involved in allowing the students to make the trip.
“I just want to say thanks to the various entities that were involved in ensuring that these students, as well as another of our student who is currently studying in America in Hospitality as well as Finance, were able to attend the event,” she said.
She added: “Now, what it does, it gives them the opportunity to get that exposure that they need as it relates to the hotel industry, and investment and trade within the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Caribbean and the world.
“I was pleased that our deputy InvestTCI CEO, Mrs. Angela Musgrove was also in attendance, and also made valuable contribution in the form of a presentation.
“Our premier Hon. Washington Misick, as well as our Tourism Minister (Hon. Josephine Connolly) were also present and gave valuable contribution towards where we are as the number one tourism destination.”
She pointed out that students who avail themselves academically will get to participate in these self-development events.
“It gives our students in the Turks and Caicos an idea to see exactly the opportunity that can be afforded to them, if they avail themselves, if they study hard and if they become focused.
“I want to ensure that as minister of education, with responsibility for the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College, that we provide opportunities for our young people. And that we put in the necessary infrastructure and the necessary resources in place so that they can be able to capitalize on opportunity presented to them,” she reiterated.