As the Guyana Marriott prepares to open its doors on April 17, General Manager Roberto Grisi is confident that patrons will be greeted with first class service.
During a tour of what will be Guyana’s foray into five-star hotel accommodations and service, Stabroek News was given a sneak peak at the run through exercises for staff from the moment a client walks in to the hotel and begins the check-in process.
There is not a section of the hotel that isn’t currently aflutter with activity as staff training exercises are ongoing as is construction work, testing of heavy duty appliances that will be used in the laundry rooms and continuous food preparation. Employees were also seen receiving their first annual medical check-ups by Woodlands medical staff.
Grisi told Stabroek News that the hotel was already entertaining inquiries about pool and gym memberships. He said guests are expecting Marriott-brand service and the hotel was up for the challenge.
He expressed his surprise during the interviewing process for hotel staff, saying that he did not think that the reaction from those seeking employment would have been so overwhelming. Grisi was confident in the staff, while pointing out that throughout the hiring process a natural inclination to being hospitable was preferred over experience. He said the hotel was interested in having persons who had a passion for the hospitality industry since training is always possible but a naturally hospitable condition wasn’t as easy to instil.
The desk staff will be running trial check-ins for 20, 40 and 60 guests at a time to ensure that all possible problems that could arise are dealt with in a manner that is branded with the Marriott. The centralised system is focused on customer satisfaction and to streamline the processes right down to how room service will be ordered by guests of the hotel.
For now, he expects that the hotel was primarily going to be occupied by business travellers, while noting that tourism doesn’t happen overnight.
Grisi, however, added that he does foresee the hotel being heavily used by Guyanese who are looking to enjoy a few days of pampering right at home.
He also said the Marriott is looking to create a standard for service that competitors will take on. He noted that prices will be above the competition but did not disclose what the nightly rates for rooms will be. Stabroek News does understand that rates will be in the US$200 per night range, however this rate will fluctuate depending on the room.
Grisi noted that Atlantic Hotels Incorporated (AHI) would be handling the beachfront in the next few days, while the remaining touches on the hotel were ongoing, such as the main entrance.
He noted that the hotel was currently working on a 500-plus person opening ceremony. Grisi said that for the opening AHI would be taking on a bigger role to ensure that it was a success.
The Marriott brings in task force teams that oversee the different aspects of the hotel. Chefs were brought in to experiment and train kitchen staff in the Marriott standards from other hotels across the region including Lima, Peru.
Grisi also said a future goal is to incorporate local farmers into the mix. He said that for many ingredients the hotel will have to import but in the near future local farmers will be approached to grow specific vegetables and fruits to satisfy the hotel’s needs.
Grisi said that the hotel is looking mostly at the quality of goods but noted that over 85% of produce for the restaurants and the kitchen will be sourced locally.
Missing from the hotel were specific Guyanese touches and Grisi said they would be forthcoming. He said currently Guyanese artwork is being framed in Miami, Florida and would be delivered for the opening of the hotel. Once the hotel was fully operational, it would be seeking to host art exhibitions, he noted.
The hotel has missed a series of prospective opening dates going as far back as July last year. It had been mentioned as far back as 2007 but there were numerous difficulties in attracting an investor. This prompted the government to invest upfront via NICIL. The Chinese contractor for the project, Shanghai Construction also sparked controversy when only imported Chinese labour was utilised on the project.
Recently, it was revealed that government holding company, NICIL has injected an additional US$16 million into the Marriott Hotel project after court action halted expected funding from investors.
NICIL had already invested US$20M to jumpstart the project. As it stands, the state entity currently owns 100 percent of the hotel’s equity and the cost of the hotel thus far is roughly US$52M, including US$15.25M already received from Republic Bank Ltd of Trinidad.
Critics have flayed government plans to hand over 67% of the equity in the hotel to the proposed Hong Kong investors for US$8M. They point out that NICIL has already spent US$20M on the controversial hotel.