From Tribune News Network, The Bahamas - July 18, 2012
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian retailers are losing sales by not having adequate language skills in their business, a Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) executive saying yesterday that “they are literally letting money walk out of the store”.
The BHA and tourism executives yesterday announced the launch of the second phase of a foreign language e-training programme to maximise the potential of the Latin American tourist market. Frank Comito, the BHA executuve vice-president, said more than 1,200 hotel and tourism industry professionals had enrolled in the LiveMocha programme, the world’s largest provider of on-line foreign language training.
Highlighting the importance of foreign language training as the Bahamas looks to make significant inroads into the Latin American market, Mr Comito said many retail outlets were losing out on sales as a result of not having adequate language skills in their business.
“The retail shops are losing out on a tremendous opportunity to generate additional sales by not having adequate language skills in their shops,” Mr Comito said.
“We did a survey and found that the extent to which they don’t have multilingual skills in their sales force is alarming.
“They are literally letting money walk out of their store because the level of comfort isn’t there. The Latin American market likes to bargain, it’s a culture that likes to bargain. We are not allowing that to happen if the communication isn’t there.”
The BHA rolled out the first phase of the programme back in April and was “blown away” by the response, according to Mr Comito. By April over 1,200 employees from seven hotel properties including Atlantis, Sandals, the British Colonial Hotel, the Wyndham Nassau Resort, the Lyford Cay Club, Comfort Suites Paradise Island and the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort enrolled in the programme, making it the largest on-line training initiative in Bahamian history.
“I think it is quite significant and shows our commitment to furthering the foreign language skills of our people,” Mr Comito said, noting the roll-out of phase II would go beyond the seven major hotels who participated in phase I, and include all BHA members throughout the country.
Mr Comito said discussions were ongoing as to how to roll out the programme to taxi drivers, as well as the police, and Customs and Immigration officers.The programme is being made available to BHA members for a fee of $10, and a fee of $20 for non-members.
Tameka Forbes, president of the Bahamas Hotel Association for Human Resource Professionals, said persons enrolled in the programme represented a “mixture” of employees in the tourism sector.
“It was a mixture of employees, not only line staff but management as well, and also different divisions within the properties. They can learn online at their own pace,” Mrs Forbes said.
“For the very first time the Bahamas is making serious inroads into this new market that has tremendous growth potential,” said Shena Newton, the Ministry of Tourism’s general manager for foreign languages.
“Our goal now is to maintain our growth in this market. Customer service is important, and key to the Latin America visitor is to be able to communicate with them in their own language.
“Last August we did a survey of Copa’s passengers, where visitors said that they were enjoying the destination but felt they could get more if they didn’t experience the language barrier. That is an ongoing challenge for us. This new market represents a lot to us. If we really want to make a good go of this we really have to learn the language.”