Tamara Lang ’89

lang“Always leave them with a smile, that’s what makes them want to come back,” said Tamara Lang, director of the University of the Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Management program, whose goal is exactly that.

It’s a riff on an old show biz adage, but it has a far more compelling application for the Virgin Island’s tourism industry.

Speaking at Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone’s presentation at a V.I. Hotel & Tourism Association meeting earlier this month, Lang gave a brief view of the program, which received a healthy round of applause.

The program, the first of its kind at UVI, has been a long time coming to a territory that depends on tourism for it life’s breath. There have been bits and starts for years – for instance the successful UVI Taxi and Tour certification program, which has been a boon to the drivers – but until now, no real program for local students to learn the nuts and bolts of a local industry bursting with opportunities.

The four-year program, which launched last year, is based on recommendations from local industry partners and tourism professionals and course requirements from hospitality bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S. Graduates receive a bachelor in business administration degree in hotel and tourism management.

Students must complete two core courses and one elective for certification. Core courses are V.I. History & Culture, Customer Service Excellence and Intro to Hospitality/Tourism. Electives are Intro to Hospitality, Tourism Today, Guest Services, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage Skills.

“Some students have no idea what they are getting into,” Lang said. “You have to love people and love being exposed to people. It’s about service. The students have no exposure, so we help them. We have an internship program with local businesses where they can shadow managers and see how it works, how to handle situations.”

Students in the UVI Hotel and Tourism Management learn kitchen work.

Lang has never had any doubt about her own aims. After graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1985 with a St. Thomas/Sr. John Hotel Association scholarship, she attended the University of New Haven, in Connecticut, where she earned a bachelor’s of science degree in hotel and restaurant management followed by a master’s degree in business administration.

She has had a career in restaurant management – several positions at local and national hotels followed by17 years with Concessions International, LLC, which operates 59 airport restaurants. However, when the opportunity arose at UVI, Lang wasted no time in contacting UVI President David Hall.

“I finally would be able to teach. It’s what I love, my heart and my passion,” she said.

Along with the academics, Lang keeps her 39 students – 26 on St. Thomas, 12 on St. Croix, who attend by video-conference – moving with the UVI Student Hospitality Organization, which is a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which provides the students with current information on industry events and educational opportunities, as well as a working model.

Besides being a mainstay of the local economy, the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, according to the AH&LA.

The students participate in a wide array of local opportunities. They attended the elite Ritz-Carlton Service Training program last November.

“The program addresses them as ladies and gentlemen,” Lang says. “I love that. It teaches them about going the extra mile.”

Along with the elegant Ritz-Carlton, the students also do time at the Concessions International restaurant at the airport.

“You must keep a smile while serving 600 customers waiting for their flights. That’s the reality,” she said.

Several students attended the elegant Hotel & Tourism Association Tommy Star Awards, which honors hospitality employees at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort last year.

“They were very impressed, I think,” said Lang. “I think HTA should consider having a category for the students.”

Food preparation and sterilization instruction is done at the Raphael O. Wheatley Skill Center, where the students learn food safety under the ServSafe training certificate program.

Coming up is the Caribbean Tourism Association “Rising Stars in the Tourism Industry” competition in New York in June, where the students have been invited to participate.

“It would be a wonderful opportunity,” Lang said.

Lang wants to expand the training to the larger community.

“With Hovensa closing, and jobs tight now, we can offer training,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a degree program. It’s a reasonable cost and people can audit the program.”

Reference:

Morris, Molly. (2013, April 28). UVI Hospitality Program Teaches Locals to ‘Leave ‘Em Smiling’ – Retrieved May 30 2015 from http://stjohnsource.com/content/news/local-news/2013/04/28/uvi-hospitality-program-teaches-locals-leave-em-smiling

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