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Nerissa Hopkin: Spice Island Beach Resort, Grenada

Writer : Caribbean E-Magazine on Monday, October 15, 2012 | 10:08 AM

He came to the resort for an extended stay. He thought Spice Island was the most peaceful place on earth and it is where he wanted to spend his last days.” Nerissa Hopkin, a Director and the Deputy General Manager of the Spice Island Beach Resort, confided, “Towards the end we organized 24-hour nursing care for him. He liked to go down to the beach. We built a ramp so we could wheel him there and he could watch the sunset. He put a lot of faith in us to carry out his final wishes and I’m proud to say that we lived up to his expectations. We even arranged to have his body shipped back to the US. Being given total trust and responsibility for this guest’s well-being was a moving experience and it touched me deeply.”

It was an unusual situation for Grenada’s top luxury resort, but it comes under the mandate of accommodating guests’ requests, even if they don’t fit within the brochure offerings. Some of Nerissa’s other memorable stories include reassuring anxious parents about leaving their children at the Nutmeg Pod or having a somewhat eccentric guest insist that she – and only she – rub sun tan oil on his back. Or how about having to put a finger on ice after a guest snapped it off on a beach chair? Or rescuing nude sunbathers -- draped in palm fonds -- who lock themselves out of their rooms?

A third-generation hotelier, Nerissa Hopkin advises “Don’t even think about getting into this business if you don’t really like people. You have to be willing to work, because it can be a 24/7/365. And you have to be prepared to serve. Working in the hotel industry is all about building relationships.”

Nerissa was weaned on the hotel industry, starting at the Ross Point Inn, run by her grandparents, Curtis and Audrey. Along with older brother Ryan and younger sister Janelle, the hotel property was their playground. At a young age she was serving drinks at her parent’s cocktail parties and helping out where she could. “I have such wonderful memories of growing up and you can’t replace those. As children we got to interact with the guests. Some of them have been coming here for years and they remember me as a young child.”

Working in the hotel industry came naturally to Nerissa. “Frankly, I don’t know what else I would want to do. The idea of some other kind of career never really crossed my mind.” So it is not surprising that she opted for hotel management at George Brown College in Toronto and later went to Strayer University in D.C.

Then she returned to the family business where she worked her way up from being an Assistant to the General Manager in food and beverage to being the Assistant Manager in the rooms and front office departments. “For my creative side, I like to play with concepts and ideas, so that is where marketing comes in.”

Fourteen and a half years later she is a director and works side-by-side with her father, Sir Royston Hopkin K.C.M.G. She is being groomed to take on even more responsibilities.

When Nerissa was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she was advised to cut back on her 14 to 16 hour days. She finds it difficult to step aside and rest, but is heartened by the support of her family, the management team and the staff at the resort. When she has the luxury of some free time she enjoys spending it with family and friends. “I like to have people over to my house. But I also appreciate going out for a good meal, complete with the right wine. And I enjoy concerts and theatre.”  She also helps out at the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children when she can. “The children there are so sweet. And they appreciate the things we do for them. There is one particular little boy whom I would love to adopt.”

Plans? In all probability Nerissa will continue to evolve with the Spice Island Beach Resort: Their destinies are intertwined and it is difficult to imagine one without the other

Jody Hanson, Ph.D

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