A home away from home for the business traveler
There are countless hotels in the Caribbean that cater to the leisure traveler. Since many people, obviously, do visit the region with the intent only to relax and rejuvenate, this is a logical business model to adopt. But the Caribbean is also a place where people come to do business. And what Kevin Hendrickson, Managing Director of the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in Kingston, Jamaica, saw back in 1997, was that a business model that catered to those who did come to the Caribbean to do business was an unfilled niche. So he decided to fill it by building a hotel for the business traveler who was not on vacation.
“We were trying to study what the demands were – the expectations of the business traveler,” Hendrickson says. “The internet was just coming, and we were the first hotel, certainly in Kingston, if not in Jamaica, that was hard-wired with data ports. It was the first business center. The business traveler was always on the go, so we had a complimentary, continental breakfast that was unique to Jamaica, outside of the all-inclusive environment since then we have expanded to a breakfast buffet. We had a number of innovations to capture the business clientele, in terms of creating a product – a desk in the bedroom, and the modern technology that was available at the time. And, as a result it took off extremely well.”
That Henrickson’s gambit did pay off surprised the many skeptics who harbored doubts about his plan to renovate the Marcus Garvey building, a former home of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which had been abandoned and vacant for years, and turn it into a high-end, boutique hotel. And after making a careful assessment of the edifice, himself, Hendrickson agreed. He ripped out the building’s innards and started from scratch.
At the time of this latest venture, Hendrickson already had over 15 years in the hotel business, and he had acquired a well-earned reputation for excellent, personalized service at the original Courtleigh Hotel, at another location. He believed that he could combine this reputation with an impressive property, featuring elegant furniture and state-of-the-art facilities. Within less than a year’s time, he had transformed the former office building into a new business model based on modernization and personalized service for the corporate traveler.
Today, according to Hendrickson, almost all hotels in this part of Kingston tend to be more corporate-oriented, having followed the model that he pioneered. But the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites is still the market leader. “We started as a very personalized, boutique hotel,” he says. “Over the years other small hotels have come along offering the same personalized, boutique experience, but we’re able to compete very strongly by listening to the guests’ demands and implementing what their expectations are. We try to cater to their every need. For example, we have a borrows’ program so if you forget, or you don’t want to bring your adapters for your cell phone, we have adapters here so you can borrow to charge them. We have light-weights, exercise mats, hand-held cloths steamers and even curling irons that you can take right back to your bedroom. We know which room you like. Our occupancy rate varies between 85 and 88 percent on an annualized basis and our repeat visitors number about 55 percent on any given day. We’ve been able to remain competitive by offering everything that the large hotels have to offer and at the same time, still giving that personalized, boutique experience.”
The Courtleigh Hotel has a total of 128 rooms: 88 deluxe rooms, 37 one-bedroom suites, 1 two-bedroom suite, and 2 Executive Office Suites. The Executive Office Suites provide a unique combination of business and leisure facilities – they have a large, executive desk with executive contoured chairs and basic office supplies such as a computer, a multi-task station with a printer, photocopier, scanner, and fax, and free internet. The Courtleigh also offers its business guests complimentary use of a lobby boardroom that can seat up to six people.
Over the years, the Courtleigh has continued to upgrade and upscale. It provided more luxurious rooms, painted in warm, natural colors, added decorative artwork, four-poster beds, upgraded bed linens, new drapes and cushions, and a choice of pillow fills: feather, cotton, or down. All guestrooms have flat screen TV’s, complimentary high-speed, wireless Internet service, direct dial telephones with voice mail and speaker phone, cable television with premium sport and movie channels, a work desk, an in-room coffee/tea maker, a clock radio/alarm, an iPod docking station, and a refrigerator. Bathrooms have been re-done to include floor-to-ceiling marble tiles, glass-encased showers with extended massage shower heads, decorative art, oversized plush bath towels, a beveled, oversized mirror, a granite basin counter top with mahogany frame and recessed face basin, Kohler bathroom fixtures, and a complete line of up-scale Bath & Body Works amenities.
“Once you’re in the hotel industry, you’re always upgrading,” explains Hendrickson. “We’re at the tail end of installing new windows. Like most hotels, a lot of our exterior walls are glass. So, we’re now in the process of finalizing the last two floors out of eleven. The glass has been ordered – double pane, energy saving glass which is also soundproof.”
In Hendrickson’s case, in addition to upgrading the Courtleigh, he has also been upgrading his portfolio of hotel properties, having made an impressive series of acquisitions over the last several years. “There has been quite an evolution within the group,” he begins, modestly. “In 2002, we opened the Knutsford Court Hotel, with 143 bedrooms; in 2008, we acquired the Holiday Inn Resorts in Montego Bay, and that’s 510 bedrooms; in 2011, we acquired a majority share interest in the Jamaica Pegasus, right beside the Courtleigh Hotel, and that’s 300 bedrooms; then in 2012, we delisted and privatized the Jamaica Pegasus and we are the now the owners; and just recently, we acquired what was formerly the Wyndham Hotel, right beside us. So we have acquired both hotels beside us and one other hotel in Kingston. All in all, we have four hotels in Kingston and one in Montego Bay.”
Now that the Courtleigh is only one of four hotels in the Kingston group, Hendrickson’s immediate task is to see how it fits with the three others in terms of economics and guest services. “For this property,” he says, “we are revisiting and refocusing. We have acquired both properties beside us, so it’s a revisit of the total product. Where will the Courtleigh remain in the collection of hotels? Currently, it has been the flagship of the group, but as we look ahead to the future, we intend to leverage the synergies between the hotels in order to maximize the customer experience. Top on our agenda is the use of technology to not only get to know, but to anticipate our customers’ needs, with the goal of ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction.”
Certainly, Kevin Hendrickson’s vision has transformed Kingston’s hotel industry. And with his long-standing reputation for personalized service paired with the latest in modern technology – now even more enhanced by the Courtleigh’s evident success – it’s altogether likely that his hotel empire will continue to lead Jamaica’s business hotel sector into a profitable and flourishing future.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites
WHAT: A high-end, boutique hotel for the business traveler
WHERE: Kingston, Jamaica
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