Avec a Courteous Manner
The roads and pathways were continually swept and manicured. The task in hand now was to select the staff from the numerous applicants. Each person was vetted by Roger and Marcella so they could establish the talent - or lack of it - that each individual possessed.
From front-of-house to kitchen porters, gardeners to security, waiters to beach attendants, a total of 30 positions to fill. As Roger puts it, "We were looking for people that could deal with the guests directly and make them feel welcome.
They had to be proud of what Sunset Bay was trying to achieve; behind the scenes too, every little job, no matter how menial had to be done with a sense of satisfaction." Marcella had a more pragmatic outlook at this point, "The service industry requires skills that are up front and sometimes clothed in subtlety - recognizing which is a skill in itself, but what is clear is that you can't teach a tone deaf person how to sing, n'est ce pas? So at this point we have to get it right".
Getting it right seems to have come to fruition because through the period leading up to the official opening - commonly known as a 'dry run' - Roger was quite amazed that his team, from a country that was a rookie in the tourist league was au naturel in the way they interacted with the guests, in his words: "Avec a courteous manner."
A Dominica Resort Story
Eventually, the 27th of October 1997 came along and our featured project opened its doors for business, suitably acknowledged at a major reception.
The event was attended by members of government Dominica's social elite, visiting travel agents and a few Belgian dignitaries; a large sprinkling of glitzy 'bling' was in evidence, the night was starlit - and in Dominica's pure unpolluted air every one of those stars must have been visible.
To all and sundry, it was obvious that the Sunset Bay Beach Club & Resort had arrived and was to become a major addition to the Commonwealth of Dominica's tourism product. A cabinet minister at the time was heard on his cell phone lauding the efforts of Roger and Marcella and instructing his underlings to 'go' find something else similar we can develop. Now!'
With the growing popularity and ease of online booking and internet access, the 'sky's the limit' phrase seemed apt when talking of future marketing. The record shows that through the ensuing years Sunset Bay's profit graph has shown a definite upward curve.
As with any business, the urge to improve on the previous year's figures is a normal progression and can only be achieved with grit and hard work or the injection of new blood; as far as Sunset Bay Beach Resort is concerned it was both.
In 2005, Mme. Fredrique Huard came on board effectively as Head of Management, but she is eager to point out that her responsibilities for the hotel go much further than that. "A manager" she explains," is in control of the day to day running of the resort, staff issues, and maintenance plus peripheral matters. I am in fact an International Market Developer with the job of making travel agencies and vacation seekers alike aware of what Sunset Bay Beach Club has to offer.
When I arrived here after many years of hotel experience, I found the operation so well organized that I had ample time to pursue my development plans. The challenge has been exhilarating and noticeable progress has been made in marketing Sunset Bay across the European market, particularly in Austria where there is great interest in eco destinations.
Of course word of mouth is the strongest recommendation that any hotel could have; more effective than brochures and in some cases even websites.
Our percentage of returning guests is very high and more often than not they are accompanied by first timers and so it goes on. Not surprisingly, the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique provide a steady flow of maritime visitors to the bay where mooring is free.
As our staff speak French fluently, these guys settle in very comfortably, one could say almost seamlessly. Canadian and US investors often meet here for seminars and a spot of relaxation.
The emphasis of our conversation then turned to the possibilities of expanding the hotel's potential re: accommodation and conference room facilities.
Fredrique went on to say, "The 34 beds now in use could be increased to 42 with the addition of 2 vacant staff houses, plus there is scope to add another 20 rooms, even a conference centre by either building above or economically using the available space at ground level."
She elaborated further," There is also a possibility of building at least 2 villas adjacent to the main road. For the incoming owners to achieve this upgrade, all that is needed is little vision, wise funding and a deep appreciation of how the 'team' works." At that timely point, a guest's birthday celebration was just about to take off in the restaurant a little away from us; at least six of the staff popped up in a buoyant mood with candles and flaming Baked Alaska on parade to ensure that this event would be a not-to- be forgotten moment. The sceptics would say, 'That's not unusual, it often happens in the best hotels'....well, that suggests to me then that Sunset Bay Beach Resort have got it right then, eh!?