Antigua and Barbuda scholarship studentsScholarship opportunities leading to a degree in the travel industry are not limited to students in the U.S.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation recently awarded 24 scholarships totaling $154,500 to Caribbean nationals pursuing careers related to travel and tourism.

A total of 48 applicants from 13 countries vied for the scholarship grants.

"We are pleased with the quality of applicants we received this year, which reflect some of the brightest and most goal-oriented individuals the Caribbean region has to offer," said Richard Kahn, chairman. "Educating the future of the Caribbean tourism industry is our focus. We're thankful we have so many sponsoring companies, hotels, resorts and individuals helping to fulfill these awards for students."

Scholarship recipients range in age from 18 to 45. Each plans to continue or commence studies in various specialties in the hospitality industry.

Scholarship amounts are not always the same, and they are funded via a number of initiatives, including sponsors such as Interval International, Virgin Holidays and FirstCaribbean International Bank, among others, as well as the foundation's own fundraising efforts, highlighted by its annual silent auction at the New York Times Travel Show each winter.

The specialties that students pursue are as varied and as mixed as the countries from which the winners hail. Caroma Walter from Anguilla won a general professional development scholarship to study bar operations at Anguilla Community College, while Patricia Diaz Centeno from Puerto Rico is pursuing a bachelor's degree in hospitality management at Boston University, thanks to scholarship help from Interval International.

Virgin Holidays is helping Nastassia Sears from the Bahamas earn a degree in culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in North Miami, while Gregory Winklaar from Curacao is pursuing a strategic leadership major at Cornell University, with a scholarship from Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

The foundation was established in 1987 as a nonprofit to provide scholarships and special assistance for the education of Caribbean hotel industry personnel and students pursuing careers in tourism. Since its founding, it has awarded more than $1.6 million in scholarships to applicants who demonstrate a strong commitment to the hotel and tourism industry.

"We're also active in supporting Haitian students and industry personnel following the 2010 earthquake," Kahn said.

The foundation sponsors a hospitality skills training project in Port-au-Prince, which leads to Haitian students attending various Caribbean colleges for associate's and bachelor's degrees and returning home to put their skills to use in the industry.

A new initiative in the Bahamas will focus on service quality in the tourism industry when the College of the Bahamas' Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute launches its tourism research unit at an upcoming conference.

Industry professionals, tourism experts and professors from 24 colleges and universities will share best practices on maintaining service standards in the hospitality industry.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.

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