Man with a message
Colin Jordan has stepped from behind the wings of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) to take centre stage at the head of one of Barbados’ pivotal organisations. When news broke that the 41-year-old had taken over as president of the association many people outside the tourism industry asked:
“Who is he?” His name was virtually unknown to many.But to the BHTA membership the new president was a dynamic, hard-working and committed heir apparent, who was naturally expected to take over when Wayne Capaldi’s term ended. For seven years Jordan had served on the BHTA board as vice-president for finance. So effective has been his stewardship in that capacity, he remained unchallenged for that position year after year. And realisation that the position would inevitably become vacant with Jordan’s move suddenly raised the question: “Who will fill Jordan’s shoes?” TransitionBut in keeping with the organisation’s built-in transitional process, as first vice-president he became president elect last June, the second term of Capaldi’s presidency, and automatically became president when Capaldi demitted office.Contrary to the tradition of BHTA presidents, Jordan is not a hotelier in the true sense of the word. He is the financial comptroller at Mango Bay Hotel in St James.It was via finance that the University of the West Indies (UWI) graduate first entered the tourism industry. Ironically Jordan muses: “My first general manager was Sue Springer [executive director of the BHTA]. I called her boss then, she calls me boss now.” Jordan first joined the accounting firm KPMG when he graduated with an economics and accounting double major honours degree from the UWI. By his own admission he did not like auditing, and after three years he wet his feet in the hotel sector with a job as senior accountant at the West Coast Tamarind Cove Hotel. That was at age 24. “The reason why I chose the hotel business, I thought that if hotels ceased to exist that the country would collapse, because I guess I had an awareness of economic matters,” he said.He cut his business teeth observing operations in his father’s small St Peter minimart. In addition, “my grandfather had an over-the-counter shop. So I had an awareness of business matters from early,” Jordan said.Expressing his vision for “a sustainable tourism industry”, the new BHTA head outlined it as such: “. . . Those of us who are contemporary to the industry at any point feel confident it is going to continue on to the future and not end up like sugar or cotton or some other industry . . . . “A truly sustainable industry not just as it relates to the environmental greening part of it, even though that is critical; but one where the people are so in tune, they understand its importance, its relevance, their role in it.“They recognise that it is the industry that supports our standard of living. Whatever we do, we are working towards that goal of keeping the industry going . . . alive, fresh, exciting. That is really my view for where I see tourism.”And Jordan envisages people getting “fully involved”. Managers, leaders“We need to get to the point where it is not a maids and waiters view that the public has, but that we see ourselves as managers, leaders, owners . . . benefiting directly.” While he believes this is not an issue which can be dealt with by the BHTA, he considers it an ideal for which the BHTA can agitate. “We need to encourage the average person to make a decent business out of tourism, and not just to appear as renegade.” Jordan observes “there are lots of persons who earn a living from the industry that are seen by many people as renegade, doing things that sometimes impact negatively”. And he cites the jet-skiing business and vending as examples. But he maintains that a mindset must be created among a critical mass of people that would put pressure on Barbadians at all levels to see themselves as legitimate players in “a very critical industry”.“That means working with people, getting the message out that we can benefit more if we in some cases come together and put together a good plan to create something that we can be owners of . . . . We need to create that kind of vision in people’s minds.” Jordan argues that profitability and perpetuation to succeeding generations are vital for tourism’s survival.He sees the association playing a role in helping members to devise strategies that would lead to profitability. The president pointed to a study commissioned by the association that makes recommendations for the sustainability of Barbados, and he believes recommendations contained in that study can aid both the private sector membership as well as assist the Government’s stated initiatives for the same goal.“I am firmly of the view that people who work in tourism work hard, and sometimes in tough situations,” and Jordan maintains they should be adequately rewarded. “But they can only be rewarded if the businesses are making money to be able to reward them. So we believe the business and the worker have to be in a partnership. And so the performance-based incentive scheme is already on the table, and that is something that I will be continuing to push.” He revealed that that scheme was at the pilot stage, with nine hotels being involved initially, and the BHTA working in collaboration with the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Ministry of Labour and the National Productivity Council. “The intention is for businesses to be more profitable and for the people who make that profitability possible to share in those profits,” Jordan explained.The father of two outlines his first order of business as getting the mesaage out about the importance of tourism. “As I see it, the people in Rose Hill where I grew up need to know how important tourism is to them.” His intention is for the message and involvement to reach the grass roots.