Travel leader calls for urgent investment in Caribbean human resources
SAN JUAN - Gerard "Jerry" Inzerillo, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide, known for his innovations and relationships in the tourism, hospitality, and entertainment communities, called for an urgent investment in the next generation of Caribbean travel and tourism leaders to elevate service standards within the region.
"We have the soul to do it – this region has soul and that is a bankable commodity, more than the beautiful turquoise waters," Inzerillo told a packed audience at the opening of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's (CHTA) Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF) in Puerto Rico on Friday night.
"Importing (talent) is not an excuse," he contended, underscoring the importance of training local workers.
"It is (our) obligation to develop our own people... and talent," said the chief executive who started his career as a busboy.
Inzerillo, who celebrates 50 years in the industry next year, asserted tourism, now ten percent of global GDP, is "the single, great ambassador of humanity in the world because it celebrates all the stuff that's in our soul."
"It is not growing incrementally, it is exploding... we are in the right place at the right time. What is going to happen in travel in the next five years is breathtaking," he remarked, highlighting trends such as multi-generational family travel, women traveling in groups and millennial travel.
However, he lamented it has never been more difficult to run a tourism entity, citing low margins, increased competition, the development of human resources, and a diversity of other challenges.
Inzerillo, who was instrumental in the success of some of the world's most famous hospitality brands such as Atlantis, One&Only Resorts and Ian Schrager Hotels, and held leadership roles with Four Seasons and Hilton Hotels & Resorts, underscored the importance of guest satisfaction.
He encouraged attendees to wow them with gracious and anticipatory hospitality service: "Sophisticated travelers will reward you for that, (others) will feel it."
Inzerillo was president of Kerzner Entertainment Group, where he raised the visibility of the company and the profile of its properties in The Bahamas, Dubai, the Indian Ocean, Mexico, Morocco, Africa, Mauritius and Maldives. Inzerillo oversaw the production and launch of several legendary properties, including the opening of the billion-dollar Phase III of Atlantis in The Bahamas in May 2007 and the $1.5 billion Atlantis-Dubai on Palm Island in 2008, which received worldwide media coverage and was featured on the cover of Newsweek. He also served as chief operating officer of Sun City, the unique South African resort complex built by Sol Kerzner.
Photo: Jerry Inzerillo (second from left) with CHTA's Chief Marketing Officer Matt Cooper, First Vice President Stuart Bowe, Chief Operations Officer Vanessa Ledesma, and Chief Executive Officer Frank Comito