Although he was rolled over and left the island just this week, top hospitality professional Leroy Jordan is counting the days until he can return to the Cayman Islands to continue his work next year.
He was devastated when a clerical error occurred in his key employee application and it was subsequently denied, which he found out this past August, a year and a half after being submitted.
‘When I was told I had to stop work, I thought it was a bad joke,’ said Leroy, the recipient of numerous hospitality awards, who worked here for eight and a half years at both the Hyatt and most recently as a concierge at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
And for the past two months on the island, not working, he was waiting to find out if another avenue was successful. As the time from application to denial of key employee counts for nothing, his lawyers sought a loophole by putting in a new permit application to start over again, but that was also denied.
So Leroy had to come to terms with the fact that he must leave the island and find a new job, at least until July.
He just wishes his merits had counted more towards the outcome of his applications.
Besides his awards, he also feels that cleaning up the island after Hurricane Ivan has gone unnoticed.
‘For all that I have done, for some reason it felt like it made no difference,’ he said disappointedly.
His love for and dedication to hospitality is borne out in the fact that he has been the recipient of Hyatt Employee of the Year, he was one of the Ritz-Carlton’s Five Star Employees along with receiving Caribbean Hotel Association Employee of the Year.
‘I look at my merits and I’m not God’s gift to tourism but I feel I’ve represented the island very well, I’ve excelled in my job and teaching Caymanians at the hotel. I’ve done everything I can. I volunteer when I can.
‘I may not be a lawyer, a rocket scientist or a doctor but what I do, I do it to the best of my ability and I’ve succeeded at it. I don’t gauge myself on how much money I make, I gauge it on my guests’ reaction,’ he said.
Making phone calls from his own home to trace guests’ luggage, wading into water to give guests drinks, rummaging through dirty laundry for hours to find a lost credit card are all ways Leroy has gone beyond the call of duty to make a guest’s life easier during his time here.
He wholeheartedly believes that those in tourism-related jobs need to take more pride in their dealings with tourists.
‘I truly believe it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. Because in the eyes of the tourist, you’re representing the Cayman Islands.’
After initial anger and then denial he can now finally accept he needs to leave.
He has only fond memories and cannot wait to return next July and start his seven years from scratch.
‘This island, I’ve spent 20 per cent of my life here. I’ve got some really good friends here. It’s home,’ he said.
Leroy feels the island has been good to him and he is a strong believer in giving back, which he has done through volunteer work.
He was also planning on helping set up a cheerleading team here. ‘I was really looking forward to it but then everything came to a screeching halt,’ he said.
He describes his former job as a concierge with the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman as his ‘dream job’.
Making friends with the guests was what he loved to do, and he more than proved he was pretty good at it.
One honeymoon couple who previously got engaged here decided to cancel coming here on their honeymoon when they heard Leroy would not be here.
These sentiments from guests have bolstered him. ‘When I heard that I was like, ‘wow’ I do mean something to people.’
Another family that Leroy made a big impact on is that of celebrity basketball player Shaquille O’Neal.
In a personal email sent from his wife Shaunie to Leroy, she said. ‘If there ain’t no Leroy, we ain’t coming back!’
‘You build that rapport with people,’ he said. ‘I have dealt with some stars but it doesn’t mean anything at all. They’re human and I think they really enjoy that when you just treat them like they’re human,’ he said.
Explaining his passion for hospitality, Leroy said, ‘Every guest that comes here is a friend to me. I’ve so many guests I’m still in contact with,’ he said.
‘I just love to enhance their stay. They become your friends and it’s very hard not to have that happen if you’re genuine with people.’
Something he loves to do is going to the airport on his day off to see guests off.
‘I like doing that because they know I’m not doing it for a tip. If I go to the airport they know it’s from my heart.’
He also has travelled the island on his days off in search of new ideas or tours that guests can do.
‘To me, every single person who comes on this island, I take it personally if they leave upset,’ he said.
‘It’s all in the personality. It means everything when it comes to tourism,’ he said.
He said of working as a concierge at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, ‘I never felt so much in my life that this is what I want to do. I’m so happy at the frontline with guests.
‘I feel that what I do transcends working for the Cayman Islands or the Ritz-Carlton, it’s about enhancing someone’s life. People in this world just want to know that people care about them and if they have a concern it actually means something,’ he said.
And missing out on the potential friends he would make through guests is what makes it so hard for him to leave.
Making someone’s day is a huge deal for Leroy. ‘That’s the ultimate reward. You’ll get that warm fuzzy feeling,’ he said.
While the Cayman Islands is known as a friendly destination, Leroy believes that this is something that can change very quickly, and that is where tourism representatives are so important.
‘You’ve got to get people to come back here, you’ve got to have that loyalty,’ he said. ‘You need that genuine hospitality, that friendly and genuine customer service.
‘You can read all the manuals and go to all the seminars but it needs to come from the heart and soul. I miss the interaction with my guests, I miss it so, so much,’ he said.
And while Leroy heads back to Canada and contemplates job offers there and in Barbados, his heart will remain firmly planted in the Cayman Islands.