March 17, 2005 
By Ben Henry

Over the past few years the number of tourism and hospitality programmes in Jamaica have witnessed tremendous growth. But are these programmes of good quality? Has a quality assurance programme been put in place to ensure consistency in quality?

It is critically important that hospitality and tourism schools adopt total quality in order to be competitive. Total quality should cover every process, every job, and every person. First, total quality is total in that it covers every process...course design, research, preparation of exams, accounting, invigilation, marketing of the school's programs, and every other function at the school must be involved in quality improvement.

Second, total quality is total in that it covers every job. Secretaries at the school are expected not to make typing errors; accountants not to make posting errors; and the head of the school not to make strategic errors.

Third, total quality is total in that it recognizes that each employee at the school is responsible for the quality of his/her work and for the work of the group 

Hospitality and tourism schools should accept and apply the concept that quality is the degree of user satisfaction or the fitness of the product for use. In other words, the customer (the employer of the school's graduates) determines whether or not quality has been achieved. The customer is the final arbiter of the school's product (the graduate). If the customer is not satisfied then the product does not have quality.

Hospitality and tourism schools should focus on continuous innovative improvement in content of courses and their delivery. Policies and procedures should reflect an obsession with quality. Schools should convene focus groups of employers who have hired their graduates to get feedback on relevance of course/ programme. There should be student evaluation of each course to reflect content quality and delivery quality. Employers' input in course content is highly recommended.

Internship experiences of students must be of top quality. Placements should be with first class hotels. If schools place their students with mediocre hotels, they will get mediocre interns who would be lost in a first class hotel if they were lucky enough to get into such a company on graduation. If a hospitality and tourism school wants to be perceived as a quality institution then it must be quality all the way.

Schools should listen to the companies that hire their graduates. But is the private sector adequately represented on the advisory boards of these schools? Usually the advisory boards are overloaded with academics and government officials who have little or no knowledge of the needs of the hotel and tourism sector.

Can schools answer the following questions? First, are employers part of a review committee set up to evaluate the quality of the product? Second, do schools conduct any systematic surveys to determine the needs of employers? Third, do schools make any commitment to promote customer trust and confidence in their product?

Does the school have a systematic, regular process for gathering valid, reliable and objective customer satisfaction data? Fourth, how does a school know if its program is a quality programme? Fifth, is the school's hospitality and tourism programme accredited by the University Council of Jamaica? Sixth, does the school benchmark best practices? 
And finally, does the school engage in competitive benchmarking?

Hospitality and tourism schools cannot afford to ignore the urgency of embarking on a total quality programme. In the end it all boils down to survival of the fittest in the total quality arena.