Familiar face joins Ritz

There’s an additional friendly face to the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s management team, familiar to all in Cayman’s tourism industry.

Chris Sariego with Melissa Ladley

Resort Manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Chris Sariego with Communications Director Melissa Ladley at the resorts Periwinkle restaurant. Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

Chris Sariego is now the new Resort Manager with the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman since the beginning of the year.

Mr. Sariego was managing director of the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort for the past two years where he was instrumental in turning the hotel into a wonderful Caymanian experience for each visitor in line with its $15 million renovations.

‘Chris earned respect throughout the Marriott organization for his improvements and innovations at The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort,’ said the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Vice President and General Manager Jean Cohen. ‘We are so fortunate to have someone joining the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman who has both a talent for operational excellence and a proven commitment to supporting the Cayman culture and community.’

Noting that the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s final score on guest satisfaction ratings for the entire year of 2006 was No. 1 in the company, Mr. Sariego said, ‘I am proud to join the No. 1 hotel in service for 2006 within all Ritz-Carltons worldwide, and I’m also very proud of the Grand Cayman Marriott team I leave behind where they have made of it a phenomenal success. They really are great teams on both sides.’

Both hotels are brands of parent company, Marriott International.

It became a natural proposition to move within the same company, Mr. Sariego admits.

‘Who started all this was Jean Cohen. She’s a true visionary – someone that can really see beyond what normal people in our industry can see and that is what is so phenomenal about her and has made her so successful because really in this industry we need to foresee the future in order to be proactive.’

He continued, ‘I have enjoyed this island very much, not only the beauty but its people and I didn’t think twice when the opportunity came to remain here.’

Mr. Sariego is looking forward to the challenge of being resort manager of the 365-room luxury resort.

‘I’m someone that has got to be constantly in a challenged mode. It’s just the way I am,’ he said.

Before coming to Cayman two years ago Mr. Sariego worked for three major worldwide companies, once of which was Intercontinental Hotels.

A major focus with that company was the repositioning of properties.

‘If the property had deficiencies or needed to reposition themselves in marketing or sales or operations I was sent there and hopefully in very quick time would move the ship in the right direction and someone else would maintain it and I would move to the next one,’ he explained.

Mr. Sariego, a Santiago, Chili, native, explains that his philosophy of management really comes from a passion to make sure that both the staff members and the guests are happy and that they receive what their expectations are.

He believes that a resort is a lot harder to run than a business/city hotel because in a destination resort most of the guests come on vacation for leisure, it’s their own money they’re spending, not the company’s, and they are coming to relax and get away from their everyday life.

‘So, for us to achieve that, it takes a lot of skill, a lot of coordination, a lot of attention to detail because one small detail could make the difference between a successful vacation and a not so successful one.’

He points out that the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman has done a fantastic job in keeping the balance of both staff and guests happy, to make it such a successful resort. This was of course borne out in its end of year (2006) results rating it as No. 1 out of all Ritz Carlton’s for guest satisfaction. This is something Mr. Sariego calls extraordinary for a hotel one year old not only to have achieved these service scores from the get-go, but to have maintained them.

Mr. Sariego said his background in repositioning properties works along the same principles for his aim of achieving even higher results for the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

‘Here it’s a very well run hotel, a very successful hotel but we cannot say we can sit down and relax. So the idea here is how can we become even better consistently, which is a big challenge obviously, because it has been run so well.’

Communications Director Melissa Ladley points out that it always helps to have that fresh perspective and in the process of translating what the hotel has to offer to its guests Mr. Sariego has already pinpointed where improvements can be made.

One of his main functions will be to amplify and improve different areas, particularly with regard to what is on offer for the local clientele.

Friday nights in the Ritz-Carlton lounge have become a staple in the social calendar of many residents and the hotel is now exploring new ideas that the locals can take advantage of.

Enhancing the wine and sushi bar at the hotel is another one of these goals.

Periwinkle, Mr. Sariego noted, is the best kept secret on the island. The menu has just been changed, and, conveniently, there is an external entrance and parking area right beside it, making it easily accessible.

Ironically Blue has really been embraced by residents, who make up half of its business, and with Periwinkle the concept of the same top chef, Eric Ripert, and the average price of entrees much lower, at about $12, it is indeed a well kept secret.

The menu is family friendly, and dining al fresco with breezes from the east sets a romantic scene for couples.

In the evenings family movies are also shown there on a huge screen right next to the lake for anyone who wishes to take a lounge chair and enjoy it.

The 7 Sunday brunch is also becoming very popular for local clientele, at CI$67 with champagne and CI$47 without.

Emphasis is also going to continue with contributions to the community, such as through the volunteer community footprints programme.

Another focus will be how to continue to create interest for the local community to work at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

‘I encourage the local community to really embrace the opportunity that we have here, which is working for the Marriott or Ritz-Carlton, or any other big worldwide company as this industry is a window of opportunity to not only experience a worldwide company but to have the ability to get to travel to see other countries and then come back here with a fantastic experience,’ Mr. Sariego said.