Travel Agent has just returned from a visit to the Sandals Royal Barbados, which opened in December 2017, directly adjacent (and connected) to the Sandals Barbados. The new property offers a similar experience, although slightly upgraded. All rooms are either in the Concierge or Butler Class and the dining has been taken up a notch. We spoke with Ferry Zievinger, general manager of both properties, to learn a bit more. Here's what he had to say.
1. With the opening of Sandals Royal Barbados, what type of traveler would enjoy this resort?
It really depends on the time of year. Towards high season, you get a seasoned traveler; after that you get the honeymooners, a younger crowd but because of the style of the resort, it automatically attracts a younger traveler—that wants to discover and experience the latest that Sandals has to offer.
2. What changes have you noticed in the mindset or the needs of the traveler?
It's become very personal, so it's all specific to the traveler. You cannot say "This is what people like" and feed it to everyone. You really have to figure out what a specific couple wants—what the reason is for their travels, what they are celebrating, what their preferences are—and cater to it. So that is very, very much key for us—and for the traveler.
3. Is there anything that you do with your staff to empower them to create that personalized level of service?
That, for me as general manager, is key. Empowerment: It sounds easy but it is not. I always start from the beginning [with my staff]. [I tell them], "Be very comfortable, be yourself, use common sense and make solid decisions." We all have great parenting, a good background and upbringing and if you apply those values, you will be fine.
For a general manager to [have to make] a decision... I always tell my staff to talk to the guest and ask them why they want to talk to the general manager and tell them that you can help them and can make that same decision. [I tell my staff], just make the decision and you will be surprised how easy it is. A general manager can make a decision, a team member, a supervisor or manager can make that same decision. It's about trust and giving that to my team. With some mistakes and adjustments, they will feel confident to make their own decisions.
4. Has there been an increase in travel to Barbados and, if so, why?
Yes. The arrivals to Barbados have increased. Sandals, of course, being one of the reasons. We added rooms—we have 502 rooms, now, on the island, and that has been in the past three years. We are building, as we speak, another 50 rooms [which will be located on the Sandals Royal Barbados side]. In about three years, we will be adding about 700 rooms to the Beaches property [development is set to begin in Q1 of 2019]. At that point, we will have the most rooms on the island, as a company. But also, Airbnb has played a role. You have it available on all the islands.
[For those looking to experience a bit of the island, Sandals has an Island Routes tours desk in its main lobby. Guests can book catamaran, snorkeling, diving, submarine, cave excursions, 4x4 safaris, historical sightseeing tours and more. We enjoyed a "Sun, Sand and Snorkeling Cruise," that included two snorkel spots, onboard lunch and plenty of lounge time.]
5. As far as your personal travels, where are you headed off to next?
I travel a lot to Europe and throughout the Caribbean. Living on the island with my family, we travel to big cities. I love New York. We will look for action, while all of our visitors come for relaxation, so it's a bit of the opposite. I'm from Aruba and my mom is celebrating 80 years in December, so I'm going to go back home and do a family vacation with everyone. But, otherwise, it's big cities, action and good food.
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