Affable Max Hillier is a familiar face in the tourism industry.
Currently the property manager of Grandview Condos, the South African’s adventures continue.
“I started travelling when I was 18, travelling around the Caribbean on a cruise ship as a waiter and I fell in love with the area. I also fell in love with scuba diving and once exposed to the Caribbean wanted to find a way to live here,” he said.
“I realised that working as a dive instructor would allow me to do that,” Mr. Hillier said. “Serendipity being wonderful, when I finished my instructor course in Florida I was walking through reception and a lady on the phone put her hand over the mouthpiece. She told me she had the operations manager of the Divi Tiara in Cayman Brac on the phone. He said they needed an instructor, I’d done the resort operations specialist programme and so they hired me.”
Between 1993 and 2000, he worked for Peter Hughes Diving, an affiliate of Divi, which took him to Micronesia, Egypt and Honduras.
“They used to call me the bad penny at the Brac – I had the most farewell parties ever. But I’d leave for these projects then come back to the Brac. I left to trek in the Himalayas and trekked to overlook Base Camp Everest. It was just this incredible experience,” he said.
A stint at a pub in England followed before the Brac beckoned once more with an offer to become dive operations manager.
“I almost broke my fingers typing the response: ‘Yes.’ At that point there was a revolving door of general managers, so I said to myself, ‘I love this property, I love the island and the people,’ so I took on the general manager role for seven years until the company decided to close it down.”
He was president of the Sister Islands Tourism Association for two years, implementing marketing schemes. He and Divi were instrumental in developing a high school water sports curriculum programme for year 11 and 12 students during his time on the Brac, which was geared toward bringing through a new generation of Caymanian talent. Two graduates subsequently joined Dive Tiara and one is still employed with a diving company on Cayman Brac.
Mr. Hillier has been property manager at Grandview since September 2006 as well as a former vice president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. He also works part-time in real estate. The Cayman tourism industry, said Mr. Hillier, has much going for it, and customer service is vital alongside staff development.
As for Grandview, he said they were vigilant to become a ‘purple cow’ during the economic downturn.
“Think about it; if you drive down the road and see lots of black and white cows you don’t notice them, but if there’s a purple cow you will stop. Stand out, go the extra mile, it’s about customer service, going with the guests diving, golfing, making them feel part of the family.
“We are not the highest end condos, but there’s something special about what happens here. Some of our guests have travelled all over the world, but this is their favourite place.”