A Cabinet minister has called for even closer collaboration between industry and educators to help develop a new generation of Bahamian entrepreneurs.
Addressing teachers attending the 16th Education Industry Internship Programme, hosted by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Mr D'Aguilar said: "As educators, you form, develop and nurture the young people who will take their place in the tourism workforce.
"Every time I'm given an opportunity to address a gathering, I like my audience to leave with at least one take-away. Ladies and gentlemen, in your case, there are two points I would like you to take back to the classroom to guide your moulding of the unique individuals who will comprise the crew that runs the future ship of tourism.
"In considering the millions of guests who come to our shores, we must see past the statistics to see their humanity. While guests revel in the material experience that constitutes travel - enjoying the amenities, attractions, landmarks and myriad touristic activities, at the most fundamental, human level, what visitors seek is genuine, warm, caring interactions with the people of the host destination," the minister added.
"That is why it is so important to teach our young people the soft skills of human interaction. How to be considerate, respectful; how to be kind and hospitable; how to make people feel at ease and valued. If students learn these qualities from their earliest youth and develop a habit of treating their fellow students in a humane manner, when it comes time for them to take their place on the job, with some additional targeted training, great customer service will be for them second nature.
"Educators, I know what I am saying sounds so basic, yet it is important that schools integrate these kinds of manners that are the building blocks of unforgettable hospitality and outstanding customer service."
Mr D'Aguilar said his second point related to teaching students how to recognise, identify and take advantage of economic opportunity at an early age.
"If education is going to develop in the service of industry, from the earliest grades we must begin teaching our students how to identify economic opportunity," he explained. "Integrating entrepreneurship in the school curriculum across grade levels is a must if we are to develop the next generation of Bahamians with a mindset to go into business.
"Waiting to introduce the fundamentals of entrepreneurship at the tertiary level is too late. There are so many areas in the tourism and hospitality sector that have tremendous potential for business opportunities."
Mr D'Aguilar said all indicators point to a bright future for the tourism industry worldwide, with international tourist arrivals growing at an annual rate of six to seven percent
"This industry internship programme by the BHTA is even more critical today than when it was conceptualised back in 2004," he added. "In The Bahamas, we are at a juncture where education must function in the service of the industry that sustains the livelihood of our nation.
"In summary, as captains of industry, we are asking for a closer collaboration with educators. It's great to get students out of the classroom. Organise field trips for them that would allow them to experience some of the activities, adventures and excursions that our guests experience - excursions offered by entrepreneurial Bahamians - and during those outings, set aside some time for the entrepreneur to talk to your students about their experience as a business person in tourism.
"Additionally, you may invite some of these entrepreneurs to your classrooms with their products as exhibits to talk to your students about running a business in tourism. Give your students an opportunity to see and admire ordinary Bahamians who have staked a claim in our economy, Bahamians who have carved out for themselves a slice of the tourism pie."
The Industry Internship Programme is a partnership between the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Tourism, the BHTA and the University of The Bahamas, and was designed to provide educators with hands-on experience in the tourism industry in an effort to enhance classroom delivery.