|We must ‘up our game’ to bring guests back|
Published: Jul 20, 2012
Position: Front office manager, Kerzner International
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Kaymark: I have worked in [and around] the hospitality industry for about 14 years now. With a passion for what I do, the help of numerous other leaders, and the drive not to give up, I have had the opportunity to chair numerous key positions around the Atlantis property. I am presently the front office manager in the Coral and Beach Towers with responsibilities also for the uniform services department. This basically means that I am specifically responsible for managing some of the key areas [front desk, hotel managers, bellmen, doormen and valet parkers] that are all vitally a part of the guests’ service continuum.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Kaymark: This may sound funny, but I actually got my first hotel job [at Sandals Royal Bahamian] after being convinced by two of my sisters to “tag along” while they were going to seek employment. Needless to say, we all were interviewed, but yes, I got the job! I still give them a hard time about this. In addition, growing up in Freeport I was surrounded by those I considered to be my hospitality pioneers, my aunt and uncle. They both worked in a hotel and were really passionate about their careers and the offering of a unique customer experience. There was no doubting this and I saw it every-day and every-time! When I wasn’t assisting with our souvenir business, I spent many of my early childhood years running around the halls of the hotel entertaining the visiting children from all around the world. This was a blast…and I guess this is where the desire initially started.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Kaymark: Wow! This happened sometime in late 1999. I helped a guest that was a having a “real rough break” in life. What I later found out was that his wife had actually left him shortly before he boarded the flight for The Bahamas. The business, which he owned for about five years, was experiencing severe financial challenges. He was thinking about canceling his trip, but decided to come anyway. We actually met during his second night at the hotel; this was after I spoke to his concerned mother on the phone. I visited his room and we sat and talked for hours. His mother had apparently made arrangements for him to return home [one day early] the following day, so I somewhat kept his company until then. He left as planned and we kept in contact with each other for a short time after. But the surprising piece came years later. After signing up to a well-known professional media a few months back, I got an email. After opening and reading the email, I was left in tears. Yes, I will admit it, I cried! This guest, who I had not corresponded with for years, sent me an almost three page email offering thanks for something what I had done almost a decade ago. To me, this was magical! He shared how the experience was a “memorable moment” in his life and what I done for him is something that he will never forget.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Kaymark: Yes, I think the industry has significantly changed from when I first started sometime back. One intricate change that stands out right now is the introduction and alarming use of the social media sites. In this new Internet age many discerning visitors have the opportunity to research unique destinations themselves, simply by the click of a mouse. Years ago, many travelers depended on the use of a travel agency. However, in today’s era, travel agents [and agencies] are becoming lost like the age of the dinosaurs. What we are finding is that more and more guests are now doing the research and reading through the reviews themselves. Which is great, but only if/when we, as Bahamians, consistently live up to expectations of our visitors. Why? Before the social media, if a visitor had a negative experience on our shores, he/she possibly told about eight to 10 friends or family members. However, after the introduction of the social and other travel sites, returning visitors have the opportunity to share their experiences [good or bad] with millions. Not only in their country, but around the world. This means we have to “up our service game plan” and get serious about getting the visitors experience right the first time around.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Kaymark: Becoming a service driven culture. This starts firstly with us respecting each other and then our visitors. We cannot be selective in our service offering by doing for one half and not the other. We have to drive the service continuum through getting each other to understand the one thing that significantly separates what we have to offer different from all the other Caribbean countries. It is not our large well maintained hotels, great attractions, clean beaches, climate or location. It is simply our hospitality! Don’t get me wrong, having these physical entities are important; however, if we cannot deliver on the expected level of service consistently and sincerely, what we would have are modern, sheik, stylish and empty hotel rooms. This is not a good sign for anyone! We have been leading the competitive market in this arena for some time now and if we want to remain a viable tourist destination, as I noted earlier, it’s all going to come down to how we treat each other and how we treat our guests/visitors in return.