British territory Grand Cayman in the Caribbean has a population of 55,000. The safe and beautiful island is known for its Seven Mile Beach, which is actually a little more than five miles long, but is rated the best beach in the Caribbean by several magazines.
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa has the largest portion of the Seven Mile Beach. The Westin beachfront is 800 feet long and 160 feet wide, making for nine and a half acres of beach space that can hold up to 1,600 chairs for functions or events.
The Westin’s 343 rooms and thirteen suites offer a selection of amenities as a resort and spa. The Caribbean oasis has three buildings: the center building is for the hotel rooms and public space, and the two flanking buildings are for ballrooms and restaurants.
The resort completed a fifty-million-dollar renovation project at the end of last year in which all of the public spaces and rooms were redone. The renovation was not only to replace the furniture, fixtures, and equipment, but the Westin also renovated its hot and cold water risers and other infrastructure. Every beach hotel, over a long period, develops a particular beach smell, and if only the cased goods are replaced during a renovation, the smell remains. The Westin is crisp and clean, and its regular customers have adapted to the change very well.
The renovation created a flowing atmosphere with water elements throughout the rooms. The resort wanted to stay away from the clichéd beach design featuring surfboards and parrots, so the rooms were furnished with neutral colours, hard surfaces, large screen TVs, and tub-less walk-in showers with barn doors.
Usually, after a renovation, little details are discovered that should have been done differently; however, the Westin is not experiencing this at all. “We’re finding customers enjoy the public space and the access to the beach. One of the benefits of the resort is that we’re a U-shaped hotel right towards the beach, so if you forget your sunglasses or need to be running in and out of the resort, it’s very quick and very close to the beach,” says Jim Mauer, the vice president and managing director of Westin Grand Cayman. “The beach is utilized heavily throughout the stay; our average length of stay is five to seven days, and we see people utilize the beach the entire time.”
The Westin stayed open during the entire process of the renovation, although this involved dealing with quite a few hurdles. It set up a temporary lobby when its main lobby was closed, and it had buffer floors between the floors that were being renovated to silence the noise. “We did such an extensive renovation that the goal was to do it quickly and get it done rather than drag it out, so although we had some temporary locations, we still were able to stay open and operate,” says Mauer.
Westin Grand Cayman currently employs 343 people, and that number moves up and down between the in-season and off-season. This year, as a result of the new renovation and the limited supply of vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman has seen a season-less year. “In-season is elongated, and off-season is compressed, and with the exception of September, we’ve been busy throughout the entire year, unlike any past year,” says Mauer.
The businesses on Grand Cayman empathize with the other islands in the area that suffered from last year’s hurricane season and are committed to working with other properties and destinations to continue to promote visitation to the region. Puerto Rico tourism is down as well as that of the west of Saint John, and there are other Caribbean destinations that have not yet recovered from the storm. Grand Cayman and other untouched islands have seen an increase in customers and received the chance to expose new tourists to the area.
“We have seen a lot of people this year come to Grand Cayman and say a) I’ve never been here before, b) I don’t know why that is, and c) I’m going to come back every year, so the exposure for the island this year has been tremendous compared to past years,” says Mauer.
Southern Florida and islands in the Caribbean are regularly hit by storms that Grand Cayman is somehow able to avoid. “If you look at the history of Cayman, we haven’t experienced a lot of storms. We lie right below Cuba, and we normally see them turn north prior to our island. The weather is beautiful year-round, and it cools off at night and in the morning, so there’s really no knock on the weather,” says Mauer. Grand Cayman also escapes the humidity that often comes along with high temperatures; it truly has ideal weather conditions.
There are several resorts and hotels on Grand Cayman, and the Westin has developed a niche on the island as an approachable luxury vacation spot. “By design, it’s a luxury that is intuitive. It is a luxury that understands the guest that goes in and out of work and play mode,” says Mauer. In the past, the customers used to work all day and play at night, and that has really changed over the years. The lines have been blurred, and schedules are not as rigid; people can work on their laptops to freelance for a couple of hours and then head to the beach for a while before going back to work.
With approachable luxury, it is essential to understand the individual guest’s needs at specific times. “It’s a work hard/play hard environment, and that is the real niche we have carved out on the island,” says Mauer. The staff at the Westin represent over sixty countries from across the globe. “The island is under British rule, so we see a lot of Europeans and a lot of Canadians. We have a melting pot of diversity in our workforce, and that translates well to customers as they’re looking for a little bit of everything in the hotel. We have people that can speak different languages and also really hone in on that European style of service.”
The island, as a whole, is known for its cuisine, and the Westin is certainly no exception to that. Its highly-skilled Executive Chef Sandy Tuason combines his passion for modern American cuisine with global influences, and the result of his creativity is always impressive. The excellent culinary experience at the resort offers variety; it has three restaurants on the property, a large Cayman coffee exchange, room service, and catering along the entire beach. “Our culinary experience is excellent. We can offer almost anything from a culinary standpoint. The island leads the pack of the other islands, and we are leaders on our specific island,” says Mauer. Every year in January, the Cayman Cookout takes place on the island and features some of the top chefs in the world. The event was previously hosted by the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
The advantages of choosing Westin Grand Cayman as a personal vacation destination are plentiful. There are numerous water activities that have access directly from the Westin beach including scuba diving, water sports, boating, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. There are also several sunset cruises and submarine tours that take people out into the ocean to experience what the island has to offer. It is a very active island that has residents and tourists alike busy all day long with various activities. Stingray City is a popular local attraction where people can swim and snorkel with stingrays.
Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort and Spa is also a strong business destination, and provides group room nights for companies that want to offer incentives to hardworking employees. The island is located close to the airport and only a one-hour flight away from the United States, making it very easy to get to. It has direct flights from New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. A vacation at the Westin Grand Cayman, which has the best beach and the best food, is a great incentive package for any employee.
Grand Cayman is defining itself as the luxury destination of the Caribbean. “People are still finding it as a new destination, and once they do, they connect with it and come back year after year,” says Mauer. “It’s still a great-kept secret that is slowly being uncovered each day, each week and each month.”