One hundred and eighty-seven (187) Caribbean tourism entrepreneurs, with varied backgrounds, experiences and hailing from different countries and territories across the region all united with one purpose on November 16; to participate in their virtual graduation ceremony, which signaled the completion of the 12-week Business Adaptation Programme (BAP) under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean’s Future Tourism Project. The UNDP-led initiative facilitated in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Open Campus and the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management was the first phase of the 3-phased project that better-prepared beneficiaries to face a more digitally-driven world in a post-COVID-19 environment.
Through the Business Adaptation programme, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) developed their technical capacities in the three areas of Digital Technologies, Financial Planning, and Marketing. The training programme was also divided into three (3) levels; Fundamental, Intermediate and Advanced to manage the diverse backgrounds of the participants. With the skills attained in these areas, businesses will be able to rebound and adapt to the instability and challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the MSMEs are better equipped to withstand future shocks and continue to make valuable contributions to local and regional economies.
Gender equality and empowerment of women are integral parts of the programme, with 77% of the participants' businesses being women-owned or managed. Programme graduate Marie Alleyne, one of the two Directors of Island Plates in Barbados, touted the benefits of the programme to her business. She noted, “The Business Adaptation Programme was a comprehensive package and the format of the classes allowed for good interaction between tutors and participants as well as business owners across the region. As a Fundamentals participant I was able to examine the business again and along with my sister, determine which areas to prioritize in the digitalization of our processes.”
Following UNDP’s Blue Economy for Green Islands approach, the FUT-project seeks to promote resilience to external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as climatic and natural disasters. Its goal is to promote economic diversification, job creation and resilience which boosts recovery by supporting the digitally enabled transformation of the business processes and value chains of MSMEs.
Valerie Cliff, Resident Representative of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, congratulated the graduates and reaffirmed UNDP’s commitment to building capacity in the region. “The Caribbean has great potential and tourism is still a great driver for change, however, the pandemic has also shown us how fragile the current model was.” She noted, “This project is helping MSME’s in the tourism sector pivot, build resilience, and build forward better to reach markets on an international scale through digital transformation.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Dr. Francis Severin, Principal of The UWI Open Campus expressed the Campus’ “warm appreciation to the UNDP for its staunch commitment to the noble endeavour of education and training and our collaborator the Frankfurt school for partnering with us in this fundamental initiative.” He further spoke to the reach of the intervention noting, “There is boundless potential and multiplier effects for not only the graduates of this program but also for their respective enterprises and the various communities.”
Ms. Fatma Dirkes, Director and Vice President, Frankfurt School, International Advisory Services, added, “I am proud that Frankfurt School and the project team have been part of this innovative and interactive way to support you and contribute to the value creation in the Caribbean and MSME arena.”
In addition to the virtual training, each beneficiary also benefitted from technical assistance and one-on-one mentoring sessions in phase 2 to develop the necessary capacity needed to effectively manage the grant funding to be provided for the third and final phase of the project. The final phase of the project includes grant disbursements which are scheduled to take place by the end of 2021 to facilitate strategic investments, digital transformation and to further support resilience recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
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