Thumbs Up to Hawks Cay Key, Thumbs Down to Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

I cannot think of many, if not any, more important aspects of the hospitality industry than constantly listening and responding to your guest’s comments, whether negative or positive. The customer is king. I recently stayed at two ‘4 star’ hotels in the Florida Keys. The first, Hawks Cay was excellent and met every expectation. The second, a major branded hotel, fell dramatically short and I thought that it was only constructive and objective to report our experience.

Sadly, while staying at the hotel management did not respond to concerns raised and as I had pre-paid in full, weeks prior to arrival, felt we did not have the option of moving to another property. Even though the nightly rate was close to US$200, I made the mistake of booking a standard room, largely based on the individual property’s website description which, included ‘153 oversized rooms’ and ‘most with balconies’.

It transpired that well over 40 rooms did not in fact have balconies and to describe the two rooms we saw or occupied as being ‘oversized’ must border on misuse of the English language. There were other issues, including the level of noise during the night, non-smoking areas that effectively were not and sliding doors that would not lock.

Customarily, following a hotel stay, especially for the first time, I posted a review on TripAdvisor and only then noticed that this particular property had not responded to a single one of over 900 postings by previous guest’s comments, good or bad, since July 2002. It seems inconceivable in these days, considering the power of social media that any major brand could consider this best practice.

Undaunted, I then contacted the Corporate Headquarters and finally received the following email from them, some 16 days after check-out. ‘We apologise for the delay in the response from the hotel. We have been in contact with the Guest Services team at the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort. Due to being understaffed, the team has not had an opportunity to respond to your concerns yet’.

I cannot recall during the nearly fifty years working in the tourism industry, ever being told this before. Days later following the intervention of the Office of Bill Marriott, the hotel finally proffered an apology, with the promise of a room upgrade during any future stay. Sadly, they did not address any one of my concerns at the outset.

Perhaps not widely known is that TripAdvisor closely monitor all ‘Contributors’ reviews and frequently report back to the individuals just how many people have read them. In my case, the last number was well over 7,000, of which 92 per cent were geographically located in the United States.

Not for a second, would I herald TripAdvisor as a gospel in influencing choice, but when used properly, it can provide an invaluable insight, especially when you are considering choosing a hotel or location for an initial stay. The objective of this week’s column was to concentrate and focus on what our visitors reasonably expect and something we all have to practice to bring them back.

Over the last month there has been a lot of discussion regarding the extraordinary concessions granted to Sandals on Barbados. With over four weeks now under their belt, it’s time to personally experience if the ‘Sandalize’ effect will help take the sector out of the current morass.

More next Monday!

18 thoughts on “Thumbs Up to Hawks Cay Key, Thumbs Down to Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort

  1. Hi Adrian,
    That’s one to avoid and I bet they had the glossiest of brochures to hide the lack of customer comfort and care.

    Most of the hotels I have stayed at across Europe have been very good to excellent with only 2 exceptions, both in Basingstoke, one where I phoned ahead to say I would be arriving at 01:30 and they said it was OK. When I got there I could raise no one and had to sleep in my car. They sent my company saying I owed them for breakfast to which I told our office to tell them a not so nice place to go to.
    The other was the Basingstoke Hilton (a franchise) where a colleague asked for tomato soup, raised alarm that it didn’t taste like soup and confirmed by a number of us as gravy granules with tomato chopped up. He got an apology from the chef saying he didn’t have any tomato soup. We sent a string of complaints off to the Hilton group but never received a response.

    Contrast that with the Brussels Hilton which offered amazing service.

    Hotels up and down the UK and across Europe from Vienna to Estoril in Portugal all offered brilliant service.

    I suspect there would always be mediocrity in the midst of shining examples but I am surprised at your Florida experience.
    USA from East coast to West coast I have had not a single issue to complain about, though my Florida experience of service everywhere there has been exceptional and stands out – very efficient, friendly and superbly professional.

    One day I embarked on a flying trip down the west coast of Florida then headed East via Lake Okeechobee to Stuart Field north of Miami.
    The Miami flight service was absolutely brilliant and alerted Stuart of my arrival where I was met by a marshaller and given the VIP treatment.
    When I attempted to file my flight plan back to Sanford via the East coast, Miami told me there were tremendous thunderstorms all the way, so I suggested a route back West, even worst thunderstorms up the West coast and I had to stay the night.
    I booked into a hotel in Pirate’s Cove and just the one night there left me with a feeling that I had just spent a pleasurable holiday of two weeks.
    Next morning I did a quick check of my aeroplane and headed off North as there seemed to be some nasty weather brewing over the sea. The refuelling stop at Melbourne meted out more VIP treatment and I landed back at Sanford in the afternoon thoroughly pleased with the whole trip.

    Everywhere in Florida I have found residents and tourists all get superb service.
    A different hotel and I am sure your article would have shown up the glaring gap between the excellent service had in Florida and the general lack of high standards in Barbados.

    In general you would probably admit that as far as tourism is concerned, Florida knows its stuff and delivers.

  2. Loveridge close your eyes now you wont want to read these articles>

    By Mike King | Mon, December 09, 2013 – 12:11 AM
    It is shaping up to be a merry Christmas for some hotels on the South and West Coasts, with bookings already over the 80 per cent mark.

    Hotels ranging from the Crane Resort in the south east to The Club Barbados Resort & Spa and Sandpiper Inn on the West Coast are upbeat about the outlook for the winter season, but particularly the Yuletide period.

    Yesterday, managing director of the Crane Resort, Paul Doyle, told the DAILY NATION that bookings for the St Philip hotel would exceed 90 per cent over the Christmas period.

    “The Crane is doing very well. This is going to be a merry Christmas. I am quietly optimistic as business has been good,” said a delighted Doyle, who added that the majority of the 252 rooms had already been booked.

    Dateline St. Lucia 7Dec 2013
    Where has all the promise gone? These streets were supposed to be the mecca of a thriving tourism industry.
    Where has all the promise gone? These streets were supposed to be the mecca of a thriving tourism industry.

    Many of us work in the sector, or on the local fringe of it. We hear speeches about airlift, arrivals and expenditure. We try our damnedest to understand the fundamentals, waiting for the promised yield of UK pounds and US dollars.

    For some employed directly in the sector, Tourism pays the bills. But for many others, the prospect of a meaningful career in the wider industry remains a postcard promise: something you read about without really being there. So, we ask ourselves, is that it… Should we be expecting more…?

    For sure, it’s not all weddings and honeymoons. After three or four decades in the business, prosperity is still a distant thing for rank and file St. Lucians working the tourism treadmill. To many, the soul of the industry remains opaque, impenetrable, foreign, white.

    Considering however, that Tourism is still touted as our prime engine of growth – and seeing how it was supposed to move our children up-ladder from hard but honest fieldwork to something more dignified – it seems we ought to worry just a little about what we are putting in and what we are getting out.

    Scene 1: Main Street, Gros Islet, St. Lucia, broad daylight. What used to be a thriving fishing village is virtually comatose. Fowls, dogs and flies unite in search of shade. Gutters, clogged with beer cans and chicken bones, harbour the detritus of last Friday night. Rats, no longer meek, have inherited the earth. Obscene lyrics blare from a yard of dubious repute. Old family houses are crumbling slowly into sand.

  3. Adrian, just an aside.

    Can’t you use your ‘good connections’ to get the agency responsible for the Oistins Bay Garden to do something urgently about the state of the toilet facilities?
    The limited (and seriously overused especially on Friday nights) toilet facilities are hazardous to good hygiene practices and pose a threat to public health.

    Given the number of visitors- both overseas and local- to that place you cannot have a situation where the toilets are very often ‘unkept’ or out of order and clearly in breach of the Health & Safety regulations and indeed a total embarrassment to the country as it seeks to give a good impression to first time visitors who might find the country’s standard of hygiene very much off-putting.

    It is absolutely necessary to provide at least another set of toilets/washroom conveniently located to take some of the constant traffic and pressure off the sole existing facility that could shut down anytime.

  4. Waiting,
    as someone who’s single source of income is through tourism, I really hope that it will be a bumper Christmas for ALL our hotels But a few days over Christmas does NOT pay the bills for the other 350 plus days of the year.

    Now the reality:

    We ‘lost’ 31,421 long stay visitors in 2012 (when compared with previous year) and Jan-Sep 2013, we were already DOWN another 26,351 long stay visitors when compared with 2012 (which again was a bad year).
    It would have to be a REALLY spectacular Christmas to make up for the nearly 60,000 less visitors.

  5. Loveridge the BLP Nation newspaper reports cruise arrivals up by nearly 50,000 this year and the year hasn’t yet ended. Is there any truth to the Nation rumor? Will that help Barbados or will it support you and miller negative posit that Barbados on a one way ticket to the collapse of the tourist industry.

  6. @ Waiting | December 9, 2013 at 9:50 AM |

    Who is being negative? Even if we can trust those statistics (Not the Nation’s because it is only reporting what it is given as “factual data”), are you seeing those numbers translated into spending in the economy? If that is the case why is the economy in such dire straits?

    What you should be more concerned about is the imminent possibility the Barbados dollar could be adjusted downwards to make the country a more attractively competitive destination to the same 50, 000 and more cruise ship big spenders.
    Now that would be real negativity in your books!

    Better yet why don’t you use your good offices at George Street to send a urgent word to the relevant authorities that the toilet facilities at the Oistins Bay Garden leave much to be desired if the ‘expectations’ of the estimated increases in tourist arrivals are to be met or even surpassed. Now that kind of task involving toilet talk is more up your street of expertise and experience and certainly within your intellectual pay-grade.

  7. Waiting,
    the MacLellan report concluded that cruise passenger discretionary spend is currently estimated at around 80 per cent onboard and 20 per cent onshore.

    It’s all about facing the reality.

  8. “Given the number of visitors- both overseas and local- to that place you cannot have a situation where the toilets are very often ‘unkept’ or out of order and clearly in breach of the Health & Safety regulations and indeed a total embarrassment to the country as it seeks to give a good impression to first time visitors who might find the country’s standard of hygiene very much off-putting.

    Embarrassment? Wait, wuh dah is, bozy? Wuh I nevah feel dah ting yet!

    Bajans can’t even keep the roadsides in proximity to their important and well publicized tourist attractions from being a damned disgrace. Driving along the road from Codrington College (point of scenic beauty and historic significance well publicized in tourist brochures) north towards Bath (another spot of scenic beauty and safe east coast sea bathing emphasized in tourist brochures) about a half mile or so past Codrington College as the road wends its way along the hillside to the junction where you turn down the hill towards the old Bath plantation there is an open area on the left side of the road next to a bus stop of, I would guess, 300 or 400 sq ft or so that is presumably used as the garbage pick up point by the SSA for the surrounding house. These are the houses perched above and below the main road most, I assume, with limited or no road access of their own for the SSA trucks.

    Every time I drive by that area by the bus stop and right next to the road is a god awful looking mess with unsightly piles of garbage tied up in plastic bags usually along with liberal quantities of burst bags and spilled garbage profusely littering up the ground. There are a few drums there, but apparently not enough to do the job of holding all the garbage until pickup day (assuming they are being used at all for the intended purpose instead of people just chucking their garbage on the ground and leaving it).

    If you are driving down Newcastle Hill from St. John’s church (point of scenic beauty and historic significance emphasized in tourist brochures) to visit Martin’s Bay or to take the road to Bathsheba (major point of scenic beauty heavily emphasized in tourist brochures and ads) there are usually unsightly piles of garbage alongside the road near the old Newcastle House and lower down the hill alongside the road by the Banana fields.

    I usually drive by those areas maybe 2 or 3 times a month and each time I wonder what any visitor to the island must think of as they cruise by in a tour bus or island safari tour to take in our next Bajan “beauty spot” when along with the scenic beauty they also get an eye full of our unsanitary and visually disgusting methods of garbage disposal,

    It is ludicrous to think of the time, effort and money the BTA and players in the tourism industry must spend to convince people overseas to spend their hard earned money to make “Beautiful Barbados” their choice for a holiday instead of the thousands of other possible holiday options that are available these days, and yet when they get here they find that there must be quite significant numbers of us with a rather lackadaisical attitude (putting it mildly) when it comes to maintaining the fields and hills beyond recall (of which we are allegedly so proud that they are now our very own) in something that could reasonably be considered a tidy and sanitary state.

    • Didn’t we hear that crop over would be bumper last year and this year?

      BU notes that the MOT was in the news yesterday sounding the alarm that the two Miami flights cannot do it for the summer. Why are airlines backing away from providing seats?


      What about the waste dump area to the SE?

    • @Green Monkey

      Check any bus top in close proximity to a gas station convenience store. The area is a meas.

      Enforcement and Awareness.

  9. David,

    I am not sure what the logic is behind trying to find more US airlift in the summer, because JULY 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals of ANY July in 11 years and AUGST 2013 the second lowest during the last 11 years.
    Overall, the US market has not grown AT ALL over the last five years.

    What we need is a plan to drive additional USA visitors rather than pay even more airline subsidies.

  10. Green Monkey said

    “It is ludicrous to think of the time, effort and money the BTA and players in the tourism industry must spend to convince people overseas to spend their hard earned money to make “Beautiful Barbados” their choice for a holiday instead of the thousands of other possible holiday options that are available these days,”

    Apart from The Crane, which is reportedly experiencing excellent bookings, none of the players in the tourism industry, including BTA, has any exposure in the Canadian newspaper or television media.

    Mexico, Cuba, DR and the Sandals properties are in our face weekly.

  11. This is off the toursim topic; but I suggest everyone in the BU family take i5 minutes to watch Youtube video “Barbados Faces Debt Crisis as an Offshore Tax Haven” at

    Thanks to Green Monkey for posting it to another blog.

    My apologies to GM if he has posted elsewhere in BU and I missed it

  12. This is the time to permanently rid this political governmental landscape of the Damned DLP and the Blasted BLP.

    They have been helping to destroy many of the core traditions of many ways in life of this country.

    For, individual walk throughs by many shoppers of the many retail shopping areas of the main commercial district in Barbados – Bridgetown – at this time in December – with two weeks to go before Christmas – would realize the very bleak commercial conditions affecting these areas.

    The truth is that at least a decade ago these same areas were bustling with retail shopping activity for the Christmas season. Greater numbers of shoppers making greater “purchases” of gifts, toys, sporting equipment, household items, etc. The Christmas music ringing from so many more stores. The beautifully decorated stores. The scenery of the offerings of the out door businesses. The bars and restaurants teeming with excited animated patrons. The festive season used to be really in the atmosphere.

    Now, there are far fewer numbers of Christmas shoppers engaging in retail transactions. There is hardly heard our favourite Christmas songs when we go into these retail stores. Fewer and fewer of these retail stores are decorated with lights and balls. Outdoor businesses are hardly providing many Christmas offerings – mainly what they are accustomed to offering through out the year. Many eating and drinking places are having a winter of despair. There is little or no festivity in Bridgetown.

    We are not surprised at these kinds of circumstances, however. We have been predicting them.

    It is primarily these two older evil and wicked DLP and BLP disorganizations that have been causing these increasingly very dreary, desiccated, lean Christmases – this one must be the worst Christmas, businesswise – for a long time – in this country, through their very backward, inept, and idiotic political economic financial policies over the years.

    Remove the Damned DLP and the Blasted BLP!!


    • ‘Best Caribbean Island’ nominees a perfect tropical bucket list
      10Best Editors, (A division of USA TODAY)4:39 p.m. EST December 11, 2013

      10Best consulted its Caribbean experts when it needed nominees for Best Caribbean Island. Here are the top 20 islands, as chosen by the expert panel for this Readers’ Choice contest. Which one speaks to you? Mustang_79, Getty Images/iStockphoto
      It’s that time of year – when many of us find ourselves dreaming of stowing the galoshes and ice scrapers and heading to the tropics. The trickiest part is often deciding which Caribbean island appeals most. Here’s a quick guide to 20 favorites, selected by the experts at 10Best, and each one a nominee in the Readers’ Choice award contest for Best Caribbean Island.
      Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize, is beloved for its mild weather, beautiful beaches, SCUBA action, and gorgeous sunsets. The island, a former pirate’s refuge, has added appeal with its ancient Mayan history and artifacts. Snorkeling is great here, but many birders come to see what they can of the 260 species that call the island home.Anguilla has wonderful sand beaches that stretch forever. It’s also uncrowded and has comparatively little development while boasting some of the Caribbean’s finest restaurants. It’s the ideal place to just kick back and relax. Calypso music sets the mood and who can resist a romantic getaway on an island with the aptly-named Rendezvous Beach?

    • Top 10 ethical travel destinations for 2014
      By Karla Cripps, CNN
      December 11, 2013 — Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)

      With its impressive approach to marine management, Barbados is considered a best-practice model for the Caribbean, says Ethical Traveler. “The country has found sustainable ways to incorporate tourism into its need to protect its coastline,” says the organization.
      (CNN) — For those who’ve resolved to only spend their tourist cash in up-and-coming destinations with strong environmental and human rights records in 2014, nonprofit Ethical Traveler has taken care of the research for you.
      Every year, the California-based team reviews policies and practices in the developing world, then selects the 10 countries that are doing the most to promote human rights, preserve their environments and support social welfare — all while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.

  13. @WAITING, you somehow missed this one:

    Another award for St. Lucia

    Saint Lucia is continuing its winning streak as a major tourist destination.

    The island has copped yet another coveted title. Tourism officials are basking in news of Saint Lucia being judged ‘sexiest romance/honeymoon Caribbean destination,’ by recommend magazine, a highly influential international travel publication.

    In announcing the award, recommend magazine sited Saint Lucia’s exceptional products and services and the island’s loyalty to the travel trade market, as contributing factors leading to the win.

    In responding to the news of the latest accolade, Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus said with new and exciting product offerings, expansions and upgrades in the hotel stock, increases in airlift capacity from key source markets and constant exceptional warm hospitality, it is undeniable that this is a winning formula, that allows saint Lucia to keep cementing its position as the preferred destination for travelers.

    Saint Lucia won the award for sexiest romance/honeymoon destination in 2009, 2011, 2012 and again in 2013.

    The winners of the awards in various categories are being announced in the December 2013 issue of recommend magazine.

    Recommend magazine has the largest travel agent audience of all trade publications.

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