By John Jefferis
Owner of Coco Reef Resorts
At staff orientation meetings I always say that we in the hospitality industry are in the business of theatre. The splendour of the Caribbean offers a breath-taking backdrop in which the hotel or restaurant is the beautiful set and the employees are the actors and actresses, with some even being stars. I continually remind staff that we are only as good as our customers’ perception of our last performance.
Bermudian hotelier John Jefferis owns and operates Coco Reef Resorts in Bermuda, Tobago and Panama and has a range of other related business interests in the region, including airline catering companies, residential property rentals, theme restaurants and art galleries.
With the widespread reach of the internet, online comments about your business can be viewed anywhere and by anyone in the world so the impression you make on your guests is more important than ever. Potential customers are making travel decisions based more on those comments than on star ratings. The guest feedback can also be very useful internally for improving operations or in motivating staff. There is no better feeling than reading positive guest reviews, especially when specific employees are recognised for their excellent service.
So how do you become a star in the hospitality industry?
My philosophy on staff recruitment is quite simple: “Hire for attitude – train for skills.” A good attitude is one of the most important attributes for a career in hospitality. It’s a business about making people happy. Whether you’re a concierge in a hotel, or a kitchen porter working behind the scenes, or even if you’re involved in the management of a hospitality business, every time you come into work, you have the opportunity to make someone’s day better, and when you do, it’s extremely gratifying.
The saying that you make your own destiny rings true in hospitality. If you are motivated, get along well with guests and colleagues, you’ll find yourself in supervisory and management roles in no time. My first experience working in the industry was as a pot washer and throughout the years I’ve worked my way up to now owning and operating Coco Reef Resorts in Bermuda, Tobago and Panama.
If you are entrepreneurially inclined, set your sights on acquiring a small hotel to start with and work from there. I believe that the Caribbean is currently in ascension in terms of tourism arrivals and the tourism industry in general. Clearly, it’s a good time to get into the hospitality business. Those who aspire to be in business for themselves, I believe, would find the hospitality industry to be very satisfying.
For those who have no interest in starting their own business, employees in the Caribbean hospitality industry are in demand with a variety of positions and locations from which to choose. With opportunities in marketing, management, accounting, guest services, landscaping and human resources, to name a few, the hospitality industry offers something for everyone. One booming area is food and beverage. Thanks to popular reality television programmes and competitions, food has become very trendy. In fact, celebrity chefs who earn money not only for their cuisine, but also for their entertainment value have made the profession quite glamorous.
Another attraction for some is that working in the hospitality industry is like opening a door to the world. The guests with whom you interact come from different places across the globe. In addition, every country in the world has a hospitality industry, and the skills you learn are readily transferable so that a career in hospitality could easily be the key to discovering new countries and different cultures.
If there’s one thing aside from world-class beaches that the Caribbean offers, it’s a multitude of cultural experiences. From Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival celebration of colour, music, revelry and creativity to the rich fusion of British colonial history and African heritage that is truly unique to Bermuda, there is a distinctive feel on every island. As someone working in the Caribbean hospitality industry, part of your job is to explore the attributes of your destination and become an ambassador for the island. So not only are you an important member of the team at your property, but also you are an integral part of the bigger picture in tourism, which can be very rewarding.
My advice to a young person in the Caribbean considering a career in hospitality is to get part-time work in a hotel in a number of different departments. Then take a course at a local college in the area that interests you most. Finally, be proud to work in this industry because it is absolutely vital to the economic health of the Caribbean nations. Without a vibrant and profitable hotel industry, there can never be a successful tourism industry.