But such is the impeccable service at the luxurious Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada. Trained to second-guess the guests before even they know what they want themselves, the service and attention to detail is seamless. And anything that looks that easy is anything but. As a luxury resort that indulges the (almost) every wish and whim of its guests, they need customer satisfaction to maintain their room-rate integrity.
But how did Spice Island get it so right that they have consistent “excellent” comments on sites such as Tripadvisor and are ranked as the number one hotel on the island.
Lead by Example
It started with Curtis and Audrey Hopkin who operated the Ross Point Inn. Their son, Royston, joined the family business. In 1978 he and his brother Arnold purchased the Blue Horizons Garden Resort, Sir Royston went on to acquire majority interest in Spice Island Beach Resort in 1987 and he and Lady Betty became the sole owners of the luxury resort in 1989. Subsequently, their three children – Ryan, Nerissa and Janelle – returned from studying and working abroad to join the family business. Now into the third generation, the hospitality industry truly does run in their veins.
The adjective that comes to mind when describing the Hopkin family is “gracious.” Sir Royston – knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 – and Lady Betty earned a reputation for making sure that each and every one of their guests receive personal attention. Their hospitality extends to inviting guests to their house for cocktail parties and introducing them to their local friends. And their children carry on the hospitality traditions they were weaned on.
But how did the Hopkin family get the people on their staff – which ranges from 145 in the low season to 200 when the resort is full – to embrace and emulate their high standards of hospitality?
“The staff are the life and the breath of the Spice Island Beach Resort and we have training year-around” reports Ryan Hopkin. “Some of the people who work here – such as those in housekeeping - may come with very few skills. Others have a basic course in hospitality or have worked on the cruise ships. Some have university qualifications. It is a real mixture. But no matter what their background, we teach them to do things the Spice Island way.”
“We also send staff overseas for on-the-job-training,” Ryan continues. “In 2008, for example, we sent 21 people to the UK, Jamaica, Barbados and the United States. We’ve cut back as we’re facing our most challenging year ever, but when the economy improves we plan on resuming the overseas training accordingly.”
And that training – along with other employee incentives -- is what has earned this five-star resort its reputation for service and its record for staff retention.
Staff RetentionPeople who work at Spice Island tend to stick around. Take Clarissa, for example. She is the Food & Beverages Service Supervisor and has been at the resort for 21 years. The queen bee of the dining room. she unobtrusively makes sure everything runs smoothly.
After six years on the cruise ships Sheena hankered to become a land-lubber again and she has been at Spice Island for five months. In charge of the continental-breakfast table, she delights in telling guests about the fruit juice of the day. Why bother with the orange juice – which you can get anywhere in the word –when there are exotic flavors on offer? Check out the passion fruit, soursop, guava or papaya. Sheena takes is as personal affirmation when guest step outside their culinary comfort zones. She isn’t looking for another job and will likely be there for at least the average employment of about six years.
Staff IncentivesThe Guest Experience
“After the staff have been here for at least a year they are invited to spend two nights as guests of the resort,” Nerissa Hopkin explains. “They are greeted just like any guest. They check in, their luggage is delivered to the room and they eat their meals in the dining room. They get to understand the resort from a guest perspective. This helps them to appreciate how and where their roles fit in to the overall operation of Spice Island.”
Scholarship FundFor the past 20 years the Sir Royston Hopkin Scholarship Fund has helped provide book scholarships for five or six primary school graduates of the Grand Anse Roman Catholic School. The assistance continues through the six years of primary secondary school and may extend into secondary school two years of A level college studies. Sir Royston also now extends the scholarships to three or four of the children of his employees each year.
Follow-upEven the questionnaire at check-out time asks if you were greeted with a smile when you arrived. “Were there were any staff members who made your stay particularly memorable? Please give us their names.” Well, there was Kim in the restaurant and Agnes who gave me a wonderful massage. And Jesson in the kitchen and Nadia who cleaned the suite. And there are also those whose name-tags I never got to read who sweep the leaves, stock the mini-bar and do whatever else that needs to be done. Frankly, the list of competent staff borders on the overwhelming.
Yes, the Hopkin sense of “all-in-the-family” definitely extends to their staff and guests. And this rare accomplishment is what distinguishes Spice Island Beach Resort from the also-rans.
Jody Hanson, Ph.D