Sandra Scott, Regional Director Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board says “without my integrity I am no one”
This month, TRAVELHotNews.com continues their series of industry profiles by peeking into the life of Sandra Scott, Regional Director Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board.
|Sandra Scott, Regional Director Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board |
Born and bred in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, Scott went to St. Hugh’s High School, an all-girls, Anglican boarding school in Kingston. Affiliated with the church, Scott recollected her days in school as “interesting.”
She remembered about going to church on Sundays in her white dress, and “marching two abreast” with the other girls.
“We wore uniforms to school, green uniforms with green bloomers, and hats – berets. In hot Jamaica we wore berets, and brown shoes and brown socks,” she recalled.
“It was very interesting. You had the girls who were the boarders, and you had the girls who were the day students. And we never came together. The day students did not know the boarders and the boarders never knew the day students. We were very cliquish. If I had a daughter, I would never send [her] to an all-girls’ boarding school. It is fantastic that I came out functional and not dysfunctional,” she quipped.
True to her integrity
As a teenager, and up to this day, Scott remains “true to her integrity”. After the untimely passing of her father, Scott’s mother and siblings moved to Chicago. The fourth of five children, Scott is the youngest daughter of four girls; her lone brother is the baby of the family.
With only seven years between the oldest and youngest siblings, Scott said that no one would be able to tell the age differences between them by appearance.
Throughout the siblings’ childhood, Scott’s parents always stressed “whatever we [did] in life we should be proud of it.” A good head on her shoulders and strong family values has allowed Scott to continuously embody the family motto of “maintaining your integrity at all times.”
Seeing the world with Air Jamaica
Soon after completing her last year of high school in Chicago, she was approached by Air Jamaica. Having recently begun operations, the new airline was “recruiting flight attendants. In those days [we were called] stewardesses,” Scott corrected.
|A young Sandra Scott during her early days with Air Jamaica|
Despite enjoying her job and having been given the opportunity to see the world, Scott recalled a time when all flight attendants had to model on south-bound flights.
“It was challenging,” she remembered, noting that she was, and still is, a shy person. “Going south you would model fashions from different fashion houses in Jamaica. We stopped wearing bikinis, because guys would get drunk and they would pinch you - not me personally.”
Quickly realizing flight supervisors did not have to model, Scott applied, got the position and remained with Air Jamaica for the next four years as a supervisor.
Time to go back to hospitality
After five years with Air Jamaica she decided that “it was time to get back to doing what I really wanted to do, which was hospitality.”
“I moved to Toronto. While flying as a flight attendant my two favourite routes were London, England and Toronto. I applied to George Brown and was accepted, and I moved here.”
Scott did her hospitality training at George Brown College, specializing in food and beverage. What would her life be like if she had chosen London instead? She says “that was not an option for me.”
After completing her studies at George Brown, she was hired by the Jamaican government. She moved back to Jamaica and became the director of sales and public relations at the InterContinental Ocho Rios hotel, now known as the Sunset Jamaica Grand.
During the summers, the hotel offered six-week programs at Cornell University, which Scott participated in over the next three years. This is where she completed the next step of her studies, again in hospitality management.
Upon their completion, she moved back to Kingston and started up her own catering company, called Food Products Ltd. After running it successfully for eight years she decided it was time to get back to the hospitality industry, something she missed.
From Delta to the JTB
“Having been a Canadian citizen, I came back [to Toronto]. I sold my business for a handsome amount and worked in a few hotels; the last one being Delta Hotels. I was the director of sales and marketing at the Delta Toronto East. That was one of the most fantastic working experiences that I’ve had. It was like doing my masters degree. Their training program was phenomenal; I learned so much. Their focus on staff training and staff retention was exceptional and still is today.”
In 2005, she once again returned to Jamaica, this time in the role of general manager for a property on the north coast. While she was sending out resumes, the Jamaica Tourist Board got wind of Scott’s availability. At the time, the regional director for the JTB in Toronto was heading to Berlin, Germany to open an office there, and the JTB was seeking a replacement. Scott was a natural fit.
“They made me an offer that I could not refuse,” she chuckled. “So, here I am today. I have no regrets.”
“My strength…my forte”
When asked if she ever wonders what her life would be like if she wasn’t with the JTB, Scott didn’t hesitate to answer. “I know I was destined to be in the hospitality industry. That was my strength; that was my forte.”
She admitted that she has often wondered if she had gotten married and had a family. Would her life have been that different? “Definitely…absolutely,” she confirmed. “I was very career-focused. If I had not done that, then I would have been a stay-at-home mom with a couple of kids and my path would have been completely different.”
Nevertheless, despite reflecting back periodically, she has no regrets whatsoever.
Open door policy
As a manager, Scott maintains an “open door policy” among her staff, something she believes is very important. A self-admitted hands-on type of manager, she emphasized that she never micromanages and works well in groups.
“There is no idea that is a ‘stupid’ idea,” she told TRAVELHotNews.com. “I welcome all ideas, and I do give my team free rein to run their respective areas respectively. With an open door policy, if they have any ideas or issues they can come to me. They know that I am there for them. But, I am not a mother hen, definitely not,” she said with a smile.
Constantly on the road, Scott is an involved and passionate person. She travels to see clients regularly, and visits her team in the Western Canada often.
Giving back to Jamaica and the community
What does she want to be remembered for when she leaves the JTB? When she retires, which will not be for a while, she would like to be recognized for her contributions to developing the Canadian market to maturity for Jamaica.
|A past Jamaica ad campaign featuring Scott|
When the time comes – again, not anytime soon – she would like to be known as someone who helped develop her successor to do “as good a job as I have done; to carry the torch, more or less.”
Currently, Scott is vice president of an all-girls association of past students of St. Hugh’s High School. The organization aims to raise awareness of the school’s needs and generates funds to go towards her alma mater’s library and the chemistry lab.
She also sits on the committee for Helping Hands Jamaica, an organization that she helped in part to found.
It’s all about integrity
In work and her personal life Scott lives by the philosophy, “without my integrity I am no one. And, it was always important to me that I focused on that in my development. I don’t lie. I don’t play games. I am very upfront, very unbiased and I focus on my integrity.”
How do others see her? She believes that people, specifically in her professional circle, would say that she is “personable, very fair, very approachable, very principal and not confrontational at all.”
In her personal life she thinks her friends would characterize her as “a true friend” who cherishes her friendships, many of which are from high school.
When asked if she feels people see her accurately, she told TRAVELHotNews.com, “I think so. Except, there is a certain segment of the community who think I am stoic. They may see me as not being approachable, but maybe I am just shy. Once they get to know me, as they say, ‘the world is their oyster.’”
The “Dream Team”
With respect to her personal achievements and goals, Scott told TRAVELHotNews.com with a smile that she “would love to achieve to be mortgage-free.”
In reality, Scott’s team at the JTB, one that she herself refers to as her "dream team,” is an important achievement to her.
“We are a very cohesive, dynamic and focused team. We are a very small team. We cover Canada coast to coast. We…bring a lot to the table, and we see the results with the increase in visitor arrivals to Jamaica year over year. In the past four years we have been voted as the number one tourist board in Canada by our travel agents.”
More goals ahead
Continuing on her goal path for the JTB, Scott would like to continue to see growth and open up the Atlantic Canadian market.
|With several members of her "dream team"|
“When I started here four years ago my goal was to grow the business from Western Canada, and that is doing very well. [Now, building Atlantic Canada is] my goal for the next two years.”
Currently, Jamaica is seeing a 27 per cent increase in 2009 from January to June, year over year.
“[The JTB] said we were looking at increasing [numbers] to 35 per cent. I said, ‘Why don’t you just round it up to 50 per cent?’” she said playfully.
Balancing work and play
With all the travelling, how does Sandra Scott balance work and play? “To me, and I tell my team this all the time, ‘Your personal life is as important as your professional life’. You need to have an equal balance, and I make sure that I manage by example. I have a very equal balance.”
Scott loves the arts, and goes to the theatre whenever possible. Her most recent theatrical viewing was the play, The Harder They Come, based on Jamaican ska and reggae singer Jimmy Cliff's life, “and it was fantastic.”
She also goes to Carnival in Trinidad, and told TRAVELHotNews.com that “Soca is also important, and our music, reggae, but not dancehall,” she quipped.
The ultimate host
To relax and unwind, she loves to host dinner parties, cook and spend time in her garden.
“I make sure that I do those on a regular basis. I am always entertaining. I have a great network of friends, both business and professional. I am also an art collector; art from around the world, mainly naïve art. I have a lot of Jamaican artists. I make sure I always have the top ten Jamaican artists’ works. While I was in Africa, I actually came back with so many things, the customs officer asked if I was planning on selling these things, and I said no, they are all going to fit in my house.”
Maintaining close ties with her family is another way Scott maintains balance in her life. Despite living far away from her siblings, the Scott family makes time, at least four times a year to reconnect.
“My family is very close. Although they are not physically here in Canada we make sure that as a family unit, we get together. My family is [scattered] all over the world; last year [we went to] Africa, this year [it will be] Jamaica.”
Where in the world…
Since Scott has travelled all over the world, TRAVELHotNews.com asked her about some of her favourite travel experiences, her most recent trip being Africa.
“Africa is one of the places that I have been to and I wish I had spent more time [there]. One of my sisters works with the UN and she just moved back from Africa. We had the pleasure of visiting her last Christmas. We spent three weeks in Tanzania. We did the game parks [and] Zanzibar. The only thing we did not do is climb Kilimanjaro.”
So, what’s left to visit? Sandra Scott has yet to go to the Far East, something that she says she will do in the next couple of years. ”But, other than that, I have toured all of Europe. I have been to just about every European country. The Far East has yet to be explored.”
The more you know about Sandra Scott:
TRAVELHotNews.com: Do you have any pets?
Sandra Scott: Had a fish, but I was never there to feed it. That was the closest I came to owning a pet.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is in you pocket/purse right now?
SS: My cosmetic bag and my chequebook. I am not a shopaholic, but I like to shop. I love jewellery.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What song gets you up and dancing every time?
SS: I love Shakira. Oh boy, I wish I had hips like hers. [Laughs] She’s my girl…I am also into jazz. I am a jazz lover. There is no question about that. Wynton Marsalis is my jazz guy. I love Wynton.
A song that got me was R. Kelly “I Believe I Can Fly” because I always thought I could fly. When I did the canopy/zipline tour; what a feeling. When I was going from station to station, I was singing the song. Then my satisfaction came.
TRAVELHotNews.com: If you could give advice to your 19-year-old self, what would it be?
SS: Get a decent education, get a profession and see the world when you’re young. Before you get married and have kids, you have to see the world.
TRAVELHotNews.com: Coffee or tea?
SS: Allergic to coffee.
TRAVELHotNews.com: If you could be someone else for a day, who would that be?
SS: Michelle Obama, because of Barack!
TRAVELHotNews.com: Who do you admire in the industry?
SS: I am not being political or anything, but our Minister of Tourism [Hon. Edmund Bartlett]. He is so dynamic and so focused. In the short time that he has been minister, I have learned a lot from him. He is so energetic.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What’s the word you most often use?
SS: Civilized, because I think it’s all-encompassing. It covers everything. For example, we had a sisters’ weekend in Jamaica, and we were sitting out on the terrace sipping wine and eating [her sister maintains an apartment in Ocho Rios overlooking Sandals golf course] and looking out and I said, “This is so civilized.” And, [my sisters] all started using this word.
TRAVELHotNews.com: Do you have any words of advice for agents in the travel industry?
SS: Product and destination knowledge is important; always work best for your clients when quoting and recommending package holidays.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What are you reading right now?
SS: Dan Brown's Deception Point.
TRAVELHotNews.com: If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would that be and why?
|Barack Obama and Michelle Obama|
SS: Barack Obama, he is a true role model for youths, particularly black youths.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What did you want to be as a child?
SS: A teacher, a model or married with four kids.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What’s in your travel survival kit?
SS: Various medications that I always travel with and a dictionary for each country that I visit [so that I know] how to speak their language. That was one of the issues that I had when I was in Africa. Swahili was the official language. My sister was there so she could translate somewhat. Going to Latin America was no problem, because I did Spanish in high school. That’s it. I am very adventurous, so cuisine is no problem. I eat anything, and I’ll eat anything - once!
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?
SS: Frogs’ legs.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What are three things that you want to do before you leave this earth?
SS: Win the lottery jackpot, write my mother's memoirs in the form of a cookbook and parachute from an aircraft.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is a phrase you live by?
SS: Mantra - honesty and integrity.
When the time comes…
It is her intention to finish her career with the JTB. Scott would like to retire and “spend more time with my siblings and in Jamaica; maybe even spend winter south and summers here.”
Luckily, Canada has many more years to go until she leaves her post at the JTB. “I love my job and I am not going anywhere,” she told TRAVELHotNews.com. “At times, it doesn’t feel like a job. Plus, I am having the best of both worlds. I live in my adopted country [and have the privilege of] working for my birth country.”
TRAVELHotNews.com would like to thank Sandra Scott for her time and cooperation.