Written by Richard S. Kahn, Chairman, CHTA Education Foundation
Once upon a time a young hotel employee contacted CHTA and asked: “Is there any way you can help me with my college tuition? I am a good hotel employee working behind the front desk and I want to learn more so I can help my hotel and my country and improve tourism.”
It didn’t take CHTA too long to realize that we needed a charitable Foundation in order to support that student and hundreds more like her that wanted to improve themselves and their countries. That was 30 years ago in 1986 and CHTA launched a 501c3 Education Foundation to provide scholarships, grants, internships and training opportunities for Caribbean students. But it takes more than just a piece of paper and a party to launch a viable Education Foundation and CHTA volunteers came from every segment of the marketplace to raise money so that the CHTA Education Foundation would have funds to help students across the region. Over the years we have had many individual donations and have had a variety of successful fundraising events. Currently, two corporate sponsors provide more than $60,000 annually for specific scholarships for our Caribbean students. We thank both Virgin Holidays and Interval International for their long-time commitment over the past decade that has enabled many students to attend institutions of higher education.
One of the main ways in which we have raised funds over the past dozen-plus years is by auctioning off hotel stays at the annual New York Times Travel Show. The hotels which provide us stays get promoted before and during the show just by providing hotel stays of 3 to 5 nights to be used based on availability. That means that a hotel is giving us unused inventory to auction at the New York Times Show. That unused inventory turns into an annual income for the Education Foundation totaling as much as $120,000. We can’t thank The New York Times enough for providing us with the free booth space and promotions that help us generate those much needed funds. Now all we need is the hotel stays to auction to the consumers. We get about 75-80 stays each year, but we need to double that amount to satisfy the needs of the consumers who want to purchase these stays. In some cases these same consumers purchase extended stays directly from the hotel creating incremental revenue for the hotels.
The sad part of all of this is that there are some of our member hotels that just don’t understand this. These same hotels want us to support their qualified students with our scholarships, but they don’t provide us with hotel stays to help us generate those funds for the scholarships.
The CHTA Education Foundation provides an average of 25 to 40 scholarships each year. Some of these are for students going to major universities in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Other scholarships are for students going to local Caribbean hotel schools as well as the University of the West Indies. The Foundation supports students in any and all higher education endeavors — but only if we have the money. We had to turn down more than 40 students this past year because we did not have enough funds. That hurts. It hurts us all. And all we ask is for help in getting more hotel stays of unused inventory.
Once upon a time, a hotel general manager came to me and said: “I can give you a 5 night stay that you can use at The New York Times auction, but I need to limit the availability dates so that I know it won’t be used when I am running a high occupancy.” I agreed and we auctioned this hotel stay for a couple that wanted to come to the Caribbean in June and got $4,100 for the stay. All you need to do is download the Hotel Donation form and provide a 3 to 5 night stay and send it to Jodi Greco, Executive Vice President/Administrator for CHTAEF at Foundation@CaribbeanHotelandTourism.com. We will love you for it and so will the children of the Caribbean who need your support to grow into the hotel managers of the future.