Another season of discovering which hotels will be ranked among the world’s best is upon us. Travel+Leisure Magazine has just announced their picks and Condé Nast Traveler won’t be far behind. Seeing these annual rankings raised two questions.
- Which Caribbean boutique hotels are really the world’s best?
- More importantly what are their secrets of success?
To find out, we started with an analysis of Caribbean boutique hotels that have received the Travel+Leisure World’s Best Award in each of the past five years. We then interviewed the general managers for two of the top three properties.
Boutique Caribbean hotels seem to have something in common with the fashion industry. Some are “the in thing” one year only to be so passé the next.
At the same time, there are a few properties that consistently WOW their guests and have reached the status of being considered classics.
While over 150 Caribbean hotels have made Travel+Leisure’s Top 25 over the course of the past five years, only five boutique properties have made the list every year. They are small, even tiny and include:
- Nisbet Plantation, Nevis (36 rooms)
- Jade Mountain, St. Lucia (29 rooms)
- The Reefs, Bermuda (56 rooms)
- Ladera, St. Lucia (32 rooms)
- Eden Rock, St. Barth’s (34 rooms)
Interestingly, three of these properties have dominated the #1 position on T+L’s list. These elite properties include:
- Nisbet Plantation (winning twice)
- Jade Mountain (winning twice)
- The Reefs (winning once)
The Secret to their Success
How have each of these boutique properties been able to elevate themselves to “classic status” within the region? To find out we interviewed Alistair Forrest, general manager at Nisbet Plantation and Nagma Walker, general manager for The Reefs.
Perhaps not surprisingly their secrets for success ran along very parallel lines focusing on staff engagement with guests, the physical aspects of their properties and lastly, with some probing, marketing.
“It all comes down to the way we make guests feel as soon as they arrive along with the actual physical appearance,” said Alistair Forrest. “You can immediately see their shoulders drop and their faces begin to relax.”
“It helps that Nevisians are naturally hospitable people, authentic and genuine. It’s amazing and I marvel every day at how the staff instinctively knows when to leave a guest alone and when to go to them. It is not something you can teach or train. It’s intrinsic and you either have it or you don’t. At Nisbet, when we do have an opening we look for people with that instinct,” said Forrest.
According to Nagma Walker it’s the staff who cater to guest’s needs day in and day out. “As a small property it is easy for staff to engage and bond with our guests during their stay. We have modernized The Reefs over the years adding infinity pools overlooking the beach and resort-wide WiFi, but updates have always been made with an eye toward being able to maintain that island feel – a place where guests can experience true Bermudian hospitality.
Beyond staff and the physical aspects of each property both Mr. Forrest and Ms. Walker admitted to maintaining rather sophisticated integrated customer relationship marketing programs for their hotels. The programs are designed to keep vacation memories alive in the hearts and minds of their guests until they return again and so they continue to recommend the hotels to friends and relatives.
Legendary coach John Wooden lead UCLA’s men’s basketball team to 10 NCAA national titles over the course of 12 years. He once said, “Success comes from practicing the fundamentals and doing what works. Too many people want to do what is new.”
These five boutique hotels are mastering the fundamentals of hospitality and building their own legacy of success by:
- Providing guests with a well-trained and perhaps more importantly, an engaging staff
- Offering a pristine and relaxing environment
- Employing marketing designed to keep the memories alive before, during and after each guest’s stay
How are you doing with mastering the fundamentals?