Marriott embraces Cayman culture

The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is embracing Cayman Islands’ culture like never before.

‘We’re bringing the culture of the Cayman Islands into this hotel,’ explained Executive Director of the hotel Chris Sariego. ‘We’re bringing culture, heritage and what this phenomenal island has to offer.’

He was speaking on Friday to a group of over 30 associates (employees) following a three-day orientation they had undergone, which included a large amount of Cayman culture and heritage.

Director of Human Resources Alex Dimsdale explained that cultural orientation at each of its hotels is something that is being rolled out worldwide at Marriott International hotels. The Grand Cayman Marriott Resort has just recently been taken over by Marriott International, which bought it from a franchise.

For three days last week employees experienced Caymanian/Caribbean food every day cooked by the Marriott chefs. Some of the foods enjoyed during breakfast included corned beef and cabbage, green bananas, fried festival and ackee and saltfish. For lunch there was Caribbean grouper, jerk chicken, turtle stew, yellowtail snapper and oxtail.

During one of the creative breaks, the associates were taken to the beach where one of the chefs chopped up coconuts, pierced a hole and put straws in them to drink the coconut water from.

Cayman Traditional Arts also came into the training sessions and did three interactive workshops involving talks and demonstrations on traditional Cayman arts and crafts involving a mini catboat, wompers (shoes), thatch-making (hats, baskets, rope) along with kites and gigs (spinning tops). CTA also gave a cassava cake-making demonstration.

The cultural session ended in associates sharing a cake made by the hotel chefs in the shape of the three Cayman Islands.

Mr. Dimsdale explained that the orientation at the Grand Cayman hotel is special because the last staff training session at that hotel had been eight years ago.

‘For me, professionally, this is very special because the people here are so warm-hearted and friendly, but there hasn’t been any cultural training until now, so it’s like an outpouring of wanting to be recognised.’

Every associate is going through a three day training called ‘In the Beginning’, he said. The theme of the one locally is about having a Cayman experience.

‘It’s all about creating a great experience about Cayman. Our associates have to feel that experience in order to pass it on to our guests,’ said Mr. Dimsdale.

He added that associates need to feel trusted and empowered within their jobs.

The training has had a huge rewarding impact, he noted, but there is still a long way to go in reaching its full potential, he said.

All 250 associates will gradually be given the orientation; this includes associates who have been with the hotel from two days to 18 years.

Among this first group of about 30 to be trained, there were from 10 to 15 Caymanians and Mr. Dimsdale said he believed they felt their culture was being celebrated.

‘One of the main points of this is to be engaged with the local community,’ he said. ‘We want to give them (expatriates) the culture so they can form relationships with the local workforce. This is important for team bonding. It’s about adapting to your environment,’ he said.

Having arrived a few months ago to Grand Cayman from his previous post at Marriott International’s Park Lane hotel in London, Mr. Dimsdale said there were a lot of expectations of him.

However, he said, the associates are beginning to see that the hotel is investing in them. There is a wonderful foundation to build on with this group of associates, he noted, as they are so friendly.

Other aspects of the orientation include instilling associates with the philosophy of Marriott International and familiarising them with the hotel property.

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