Find your niche and pursue it
Published: Oct 25, 2013
Name: Kay-Andra Gardiner
Position: Vice president & director of sales, Zamar Group Companies Ltd.
1. Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
My indirect experience in the tourism sector began while I was a young child as both my parents have been involved in the tourism sector since the late 70s and early 80s as managers, however, I became directly involved in tourism in 2008 when I joined in my family owned business, Zamar Group Companies Ltd., better known as Zamar Productions. The company is an audiovisual and production services company that manages AV services for resorts in The Bahamas. I joined the company as director of sales, which has afforded me an opportunity to work with large and small, local and international organizations hosting events and programs in The Bahamas. My family and I also, in 2009, extended our service offerings by opening a Meeting Planning and Destination Management Services Company (DMC), Island Pearls International, that offers an added level of service to persons hosting events and programs in The Bahamas by providing them with unique destination experience. Since the 2000s when The Bahamas became a major meeting center in the Caribbean, the services our companies provides directly affects the guest experience for corporate visitors.
Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Prior to joining Zamar in 2008, I worked in public accounting as an auditor and found that while I was good at what I did, I was not being stimulated sufficiently to continue in that career path. I began looking for avenues that would utilize the skills I possessed and challenge me everyday. When I joined the company and by extension tourism, I found my niche and have been a part of the industry since. Working in tourism and with the clients I have direct relationships with affords me an opportunity to have a unique working experience everyday: No two days are ever the same.
What has been your most memorable moment?
My most memorable moment, thus far, was earlier this year when a large Fortune 500 company held their event at Atlantis and towards the end of the program the client said to me that the experience we provided their guests was the best experience they ever had and we took their vision and surpassed their expectation. The client and I worked for seven months on the program and in that moment, it made everything worth it.
4. Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Yes, the tourism industry has changed since I began my career. The biggest and most notable change is that we are now dealing with a more educated meeting planner and visitor to our destination. No longer are we able to say to a client that we can provide a particular service and later determine how we will make it happen for them, instead, we have to come to the table prepared with all the answers.
The planners are coming to the destination armed with the knowledge of what you have done in the past for other programs, what has and has not worked, what industry standards are, an array of certifications in the industry, and a budget that does not allow for excess.
What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
In order to remain competitive, we need to focus on service levels and technical expertise. While we do a decent job and providing quality service in our larger hotel properties, there is room for improvement. We have to be mindful that service does not begin at a hotel’s check in or at the door; it begins at arrival to the destination and continues with transportation, food service, tours and excursions, the hotel experience, ending when the cabin door to an aircraft is closed or the guest has boarded their ship. Many of our employers, namely hotel properties, place a great deal of emphasis on training their staff to perform the job task, but we need to focus on increasing the amount of persons in our industry who not only have degrees in hospitality, but are a part of industry organizations who provide international standards of operations and certifications that directly impact the tourism industry and by extension the guest experience.
6. What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
My recommendation to a young person who is considering a career in tourism is to find a specialty area in tourism where there is a void currently and pursue it. In tourism, we are not limited to only working in housekeeping, banquets and restaurants or at the front desk. There are a host of specialty areas in tourism that we desperately need individuals in. As a young child, I never thought that what my parents did affected our tourism product, but now that I am in the industry, I know better and have an appreciation for this niche part of the tourism industry I am in.
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