I spent the last week on a pleasant family vacation on my island paradise home, enjoying our north coast tourism. It was an excellent Easter break, which is only ending today. Like others there, I was just into leisure and pleasure. But, as I live here I get to see what foreign tourists are offered and I can think about how good or bad it may be. 

 As I can also do, I get to contrast the ease of life in and around our hotels and compare it to the rest of our island.

Just midweek, media reports informed me that 19 people, including 1 policeman, had been arrested in relation to lotto scamming. Some will soon be served with papers for extradition Though the alleged scammers were caught in various parts of Jamaica, their home is usually believed to be in the parish of St. James, where most of our major tourism occurs. I’ve never heard it argued, I wonder if the tourism sector has an excuse with scamming. 

But, let’s keep things simple. Many of our tourist offerings are important employers. That’s obvious. What’s also important is that it’s good entry level work for many high schoolers. It’s noticeable that many of the more attractive offerings have lots of young, smiling, enthusiastic, presentable, intelligent staff. Many say they are happy where they’re working. 

I probed a little and asked some of them if they’ve decided to work in the hotel business, instead of going to college, or trying other fields. One young girl, working in a hotel restaurant, told me she was in her first job and wants to study law at university, but without taking loans. So, work will help her achieve that financial independence. 

Many young people work as ‘entertainers’ in the hotels, dancing, singing, goading guests to do silly things.

Many are the core of the hotel–its preparers of food, its service staff (opening doors, cleaning rooms, grooming landscape, etc.). Those ancillary workers may not be the same as the perky youngsters; not qualified for much else, and for whom hotel work is a good landing spot. 

Foreign guests don’t often notice the hotel staff’s differences that well. So, it’s important for us locals that all these staff represent us well. They are the ‘first faces’ many visitors encounter. 

If one thing is clear, it’s quality of training in the hotels that are not just popular but are well-sought after. What’s not clear is if they are pulling up others behind, and if so, at what speed.

But, we’re all potential ‘first faces’. Not just obvious people like immigration officers or taxi drivers at airports. Not just vendors hoping for a little sale before new arrivals leave the airports. Whoever meets cruise passengers are included. Priests and congregations located near hotels. Raft captains at Martha Brae. It doesn’t really matter who. 

Are we all ready to put on our best face? I know the answer and wonder if those with sour faces end grumpy attitudes to customers ever count the amount of goodwill they could create with a little change. Maybe, their bosses don’t care: business trundles on.