Tourism sector seeks to bridge the language gap
The latest hotel preparation for South American visitor growth, beyond just 2 percent of total arrivals, has absolutely nothing to do with adding bedrooms — and more to do with classrooms.
Both Atlantis and the Sandals Resort have collectively invested tens of thousands of dollars to get their properties ready for what is expected to be a considerable increase in guests from that market.
Stuart Bowe, Sr. vice-president!and general manager of Atlantis Coral and Beach towers, said the introduction of Copa Airlines flights from Panama means preparing employees is essential to businesses development.
“The upside is huge from South America,” said Bowe, who is also the head of the Bahamas Hotel Association.
“It’s a new market and any improvement in that market will be incremental with the high base of persons coming from U.S. and Canada.
“In last 10 years, South America has seen 50 million people in the last 100 years moving into the middle class. Atlantis is taking steps to improve our services, which includes training employees to speak Spanish, updating in-house literature, increased marketing and sales effort. We’re excited about the opportunity to get into South America.”
In addition to a Spanish club for employees who already speak the language, Atlantis has recently made efforts to have several employees certified through a Spanish speaking course offered at the College of The Bahamas.
Sandals Resort has already started purchasing translator devices for their staff as a way to prepare for this growth.
It is important, say officials, given the resort boasts guests from many non-English speaking countries. Officials there have also upped promotion and marketing of its properties for this market, hiring a business development person specifically to promote visitors from South America.
The move comes as an increasing number of employers across the country look for bi-lingual employees in their hiring process. Human resource professionals have repeatedly said that more Bahamians with language skills could help in cutting down the need for expatriate workers.
Bowe notes, however, that individual hotels have their own strategies for tapping into that market. Various establishments have intensified these efforts, as the benefits of Spanish speaking guests trickle down more in the local economy.
“Copa Airlines does very well and more recently we’ve seen improving numbers out of there,” he added. “And right now we see more people trickling in.”
The Nassau Guardian