Virgin Limited, Rosewood Hotels, Autograph Collection & Bitter End Yacht Club, British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands, despite their white sand, turquoise water, and unparalleled beauty, have faced challenges for years when it comes to providing luxury hospitality service. Hospitality is viewed for the most part as a means to an end vs. a lifetime career and many employees lack a sense of pride and ownership in their industry.
After Hurricanes Irma and Maria left hundreds without electricity, homes and/or employment in September 2017, Saira Hospitality arrived in the BVI on July 30 2018 and on October 1, launched an 8-week pop-up hotel school on two islands, Virgin Gorda and Tortola. Saira Hospitality accepted 95 local students out of 225+ applicants from the BVI, unemployed or underemployed since the hurricanes. As always, the Saira program is free of charge for students.
Saira Hospitality has been kindly sponsored by Virgin Limited Edition partnering with Moskito Island and Necker Island, Rosewood Hotels, partnering with Little Dix Bay, Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, an Autograph Collection property, Bitter End Yacht Club and Perception, private sponsor. Saira partnered with eCornell, Cornell Hotel School's online learning platform to offer the students an additional qualification, the Service Excellence module, for which students pay $150 USD.
What we have done so far
Through flyer distribution, promotion on local social media, newspapers and radio announcements, Saira received 225+ online applications and led candidates through a four-step interview process, requesting an online 15-second video after the online application, attendance to a Saira Information Session of two hours, and lastly, interviewing students one a one-to-one basis. Finally 95 students were selected to fill the six classes.
All local trainers were also identified, interviewed, hired and trained in the different eight modules.
What's to come
The intensive hospitality classes cover a multitude of topics including: tangible and intangible service qualities, loyalty programs, turnover, service recovery, mindfulness, wellness, as well as cultural and emotional intelligence. Students will also gain a broad understanding of hotels, tourism today and the modern traveler. In the second half of the program, the focus of instruction shifts to technical skills and knowledge, training students on the different departments of each partnering property which is done on site to enable the students to see each property in action.
The British Virgin Islands program will also include training in sustainability, nutrition, personal finance, entrepreneurship and leadership thinking.
Over the course of the program, Saira Hospitality will work with each individual student to identify personal goals, strengths and weaknesses to map out career paths to encourage long-term employment.
Without ever being able to touch, taste or feel great service within the luxury hospitality space, it is extremely difficult for one to really be able to imitate it. In Weeks 1-2, students are taken to luxury properties, such as Oil Nut Bay for example and shown first hand examples of luxury service. Students who may not have been to luxury properties before are showing both the front and back of house and are treated as guests touring the property.
As an incentive and crucial component of the course, students also experience a fine dining experience at Coco Maya on Virgin Gorda, often for the first time being on the receiving end of great service and thereafter, understanding the needs of the guest.
To prove that hospitality service can be improved in the BVI, for employees and managers to think more like leaders, for hospitality to be seen as a career that can and will open doors and to instill a sense of pride and ownership into the hospitality industry in the BVI. The goal is to not only produce well-trained local employees to be hired by brand partners but ultimately location leaders for the BVI with the hospitality gene and the genuine desire to serve.
We aim to meet all of the hiring needs of our hospitality partners and ensure all students, should they wish, be placed either in hospitality roles or assist them in launching their own hospitality entrepreneurial venture.