$15M takes good to great

A cool $15 million being pumped into Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is turning this property from a good hotel into a great hotel, ready to re-open its doors to tourists on 1 June.

New Managing Director Chris Sariego came on board at the property in January to help turn the hotel into a wonderful Caymanian experience for each visitor in time for its soft opening in June and grand opening on 1 August.

‘I want this to be a great hotel – a great hotel that will help guests to encounter great experiences at the resort and on Grand Cayman,’ he said.

Mr. Sariego, who is originally from Chile and has lived and worked all over the world, asserts that he wants the hotel to be a part of the Caymanian culture and a reflection of it. He wants customers to experience the culture, great service, beaches and everything Cayman has to offer.

‘We’re going to be the one that can give the greatest Caymanian experience and we want to make sure we’re promoting this as a destination as well as a hotel,’ he said.

The big changes at the resort begin, of course, with its rejuvenation through renovation.

Through the hiring of design firm Duncan & Miller and John Hardy Group (construction) the hotel is receiving a total overhaul.

‘If we want to be the best we have to hire the best,’ asserts Director of Marketing & Worldwide Sales for Marriott, Shannah Milstead.

Beautiful island tropical styles adorn the furnishings of the luxurious bedrooms as part of the hotel’s entire overhaul from ceiling to floor. Other features will include wireless internet and two phones in each bedroom.

In fact, every single thing at the resort is being overhauled, from the swimming pool to the types of coffee served, the safety and fire features down to the plants. It’s now all about attention to detail through granite and marble surfaces, luxurious fabrics, and excellent services including turn-down service in every room and use of triple sheeting, for that eternal fresh feeling in bed.

The next step in the turnaround for the resort comes in the attitude, training and service of staff. Mr. Sariego’s background is specifically in working with hotels that need a change of direction, hence his role in guiding the Marriott Grand Cayman on a new path.

‘It all starts with the wonderful people we have here,’ he said, referring to his staff.

‘If we take care of the people who take care of people then everything takes care of itself,’ explained Mrs. Milstead, who added that every customer is a VIP at the resort. She asserts that it is the treatment customers receive from the staff, and the emotions that go along with it, that guests remember when they leave a hotel.

Mr. Sariego is excited about changes and growth taking place on the island.

‘The whole island is going to be a brand new island. We want to be part of the positive growth the island is having. Tourists will encounter an island much better than it was before.

‘The work being done on the island shows the world we’re committed to the tourism product. We want to be part of this and stand behind the Government saying Grand Cayman is the place to visit.’

Other features of the hotel that are being improved include an extension of the spa with larger treatment rooms, more privacy and a couples Jacuzzi room. The dive shop will be extended and enhanced. The ballroom is being expanded and the outside grounds are being re-landscaped.

The beach is also looking beautiful having reclaimed much powdery white sand through the resort’s reef balls, which were placed in the ocean a couple of years ago to take back the beach.

Both the hotel’s restaurants will be revamped and revitalised.

Of course room rates will be increasing as the service, value and products do.

‘We’re a different Marriott now,’ asserted Mr. Sariego.

Since the hurricane, the hotel has tried to keep on as many staff as possible and is now operating with about 105, sufficient for its soft opening in June.

Help has been on hand for staff through increases in the gratuity pool every two weeks and a relief fund, which was set up by the Marriott Company.

Mr. Sariego, who likes his staff (who he refers to as associates) to call him ‘Chris’ is a firm believer in team work and training. Every two to three weeks he has a lunch for his staff and encourages everyone to always smile and say hello to each other.

‘A big smile is the beginning of any positive outcome,’ he asserts.

And there is no shortage of a big smile on the face of the new Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.