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"I always say I'm a child of tourism," Angella Bennett, Regional Director, Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board, proudly tells us as we sit down for a chat for our latest feature in our Women in Travel Series.
Though she moved to Toronto in 2019, growing up in Jamaica Bennett had wanted to be a vet. In Montego Bay however there were only jobs in either tourism or banking.
"And I knew I wasn't a banker."
"I got into tourism quite early with a very good institution - the Half Moon Hotel - which was the benchmark for luxury and a benchmark for Jamaica for high-quality accommodation resort setting. I joined Half Moon Hotel and from an early age I was trained well. I fell in love with tourism."
"It wasn't difficult to fall in love with tourism. I still am a lover of animals, but tourism has captured my heart."
Bennett's dad was a musician and a big influence on her life in Montego Bay, where tourism is a major focus. That environment is one she says allowed her to be around visitors, around culture, and around music.
"That is what drives me; the passion of seeing through the lens, the culture of other countries as well."
Being a woman in what previously was a masculine dominated world, and as a woman of colour, Bennett says she was able succeed largely in part to the foundation of Half Moon Hotel and her growth through the Spanish organization RIU Hotels and Resorts in Jamaica, who gave her the opportunity to lead their sales team. After Half Moon Hotel, she moved into destination management with Caribic Vacations where she represented different tour operators out of Europe and developed products, especially for the German market. She joined the RIU Hotels and Resorts as Director and Sales and opening 5 of 6 resorts in Jamaica, doing what she says, "showed the strength of what a woman can do at the helm of hotel sales."
Bennett agrees that tourism is an interesting field and one that is predominantly headed by men. Though that is starting to change, it is still a tough environment for women.
"You have to be strong, and you have to be able to work even 10 steps ahead, just to have your seat at the table. And it's important to have a seat at the table, so you can affect change. That for me has been my experience, because I'm in the boardroom where decisions are being made and I put forward what I know are different thoughts about how I think we can progress."
That has led to gaining respect through the work I'm able to do, which opened the door to many conversations and brings you closer to effecting change. For me, it has not so much been a difficult transition but it's a position where you have to be strong as a woman."
Bennett has a solid sisterhood within the industry that she says keeps her grounded, with too many mentors to mention, but it's a list that includes Jamaica's own Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett. She says he has always encouraged her to keep going as she's an excellent ambassador for their country.
"I do my job with such passion, because I believe in my country, the beauty of my country, the beauty of its people. The culture, the food, the music; all of that drives me, it makes me want to always go to Jamaica, makes me always choose Jamaica first, of anywhere else in the world, because it's home. It's where I'm most comfortable. And where I feel most liberated."
"Being a woman in tourism, it can be seen sometimes as a masculine world, but I've been able to move those boundaries and achieve things that I never thought, I could do as a woman and a woman of color.
"We are capable of excelling to high levels if given the chance."
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