Hospitality through long-term lens

The TT Tourism Institute (TTHTI)  - Jensen La Vende
The TT Tourism Institute (TTHTI) - Jensen La Vende

On Friday, the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association issued a five-page press release announcing the “permanent closure” of the TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI).

The Hotel School, the institute’s unofficial name since it opened in 1996, had been the basis for the training of a continuous corps of capable staff for the tourism and hospitality industry.

It proved an excellent resource, and in addition to its longer term training of hospitality sector hopefuls, offered training in a range of culinary arts to thousands of students of all ages who attended short courses teaching a range of food preparation arts.

But last week the board of the institute announced that the double whammy of covid19 restrictions – which scuttled the in-person training at the core of the school’s curriculum – and the nonpayment of subventions by the government, to the tune of $13,171,000, left the leadership of the school no choice but to shutter its operations.

On its own, that was a troubling development, but it would be compounded, on Saturday, by a statement from the Education Ministry which cast a different light on the issue.

“Between 2016 and 2018, the Ministry of Education made several efforts to meet with the TTHTI to discuss certain anomalies as well as non-compliance with the reporting requirements established by the Ministry of Finance,” the release said.

That non-compliance extended to a decision, according to the government release, to cease Continuing Institutional Accreditation with the Accreditation Council of TT, which ended GATE support for students of the institute.

The Education Ministry also expressed concern that without “Teach-Out” arrangements, registered students would be unable to transfer records, transcripts and documents to another educational institution.

That is a serious issue in itself, but it also cuts to the most critical aspect of this debacle, the fate of current and prospective students seeking a future in the hospitality industry.

Whatever the final dispensation, the government must be well aware that there is a continuing need to develop the human resource capacity necessary to maintain and to grow the capacity of the local hospitality industry.

For the majority of its history, the TTHTI was an excellent training ground and produced valued students.

Newly-appointed Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly told Newsday via WhatsApp that “no government would like to see the opportunity to learn these skills lost to our nationals.”

That’s a positive note, signalling an understanding of the need for a continuation of formal and focused training for the sector.

It’s a position that current TTHTI students will welcome and the government should move with dispatch to establish a clear path forward for training in the hospitality industry—if there is a serious intention for it to have a future, come the post-covid19 era.


"Hospitality through long-term lens"

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