A Cayman comfort zone

For many corporate employees and teachers hired from overseas to work on Grand Cayman, the Comfort Suites Resort Seven Mile Beach serves as their first home. Some spend as long as a month, but more often, Comfort Suites is where they sleep for their first two weeks on the island.

The hotel’s popularity with new recruits is not just about its location close to town and the value it offers, it seems breakfast is also a big draw. A full buffet breakfast is included in all room rates and features fresh waffles and freshly baked pastries, as well as typical American breakfast fare options.

Comfort Suites offers the recruited newcomers a chance to meet the people who call the Cayman Islands home on a permanent basis.

“The large majority of our staff is Caymanian,” says General Manager Tom Mason. “It’s been a huge part of our success. It’s not just new employment recruits that benefit from Comfort Suites’ authentic slice of “Caymankind” — visitors like it, too, so much that they return year after year.

“Our customers are very loyal,” says Mason. “People keep coming back and some of them have been coming every year for so long that we know their names.”

The Cayman way

The Caymanians who built and opened Comfort Suites in 1999 established it with a different mindset than most hotels.

“They wanted a local hotel with local people working in it. It was built with an ethos on values that were unique Caymanian values,” Mason says, adding that the Comfort Suites staff takes pride in its Caymanian identity.

The staff, which currently consists of 43 people, is a close-knit group that has family-like qualities, says Mason, who has been at the hotel for two stints and a total of 13 years.

“It’s a relationship-based group,” he says. “It’s special.”

The management style at Comfort Suites is one that deals with employees as if they were customers.

“It’s a style where you listen and try to coach up, but you have to balance being charitable and generous with being firm at times,” Mason says.

Although employees come and go, the core group has been together for a long time and they form a support group for one another. One of the biggest successes of having such a close-knit and supportive group of employees has been in gaining top-notch education opportunities for children of staff, who Mason refers to as “Comfort Suites kids.”

“We have a lot of children who have done extremely well education-wise and that’s something we’ve encouraged.”

Some employees use their Comfort Suites experiences as a stepping stone for bigger jobs in the hospitality industry, Mason says. Despite losing talented staff, the hotel will continue to develop its people so that they can grow, even if the benefits of their training are enjoyed by other employers.

“That’s a success story for us and there are a lot of success stories like that.”

Dart purchase

Earlier this summer, Dart purchased the Comfort Suites hotel, but Mason says not much has changed from a customer experience standpoint.

“It’s very much business as usual,” he says. “We’re still focused on providing excellent service and value.”

However, Mason says the Dart purchase will provide opportunities for Comfort Suites to improve. As an independently owned company with limited resources, Mason says Comfort Suites was finding it difficult to compete in Cayman’s growing hospitality market.

“It was like we were looking through the wrong end of the telescope,” he says. “It was a very small horizon. Now we’ve turned the telescope around and it’s a much larger horizon.”

Although there are no immediate plans for capital improvements, the Dart ownership is providing numerous benefits ranging from more frequent and more efficient shipping options to accessible expertise for business functions like sales and marketing, human resources and public relations.

Dart has also introduced some new social initiatives at Comfort Suites.

“We now recycle,” says Mason. “That’s not only good for the environment, but we save on cost and give our customers a better product.”

The sale has brought a new dynamic to Comfort Suites, Mason says.

“Before the sale to Dart, there was the potential for another purchaser, but I think the Dart purchase was the best result,” he says. “We share some of the same values, like that of hard work and respect for our employees.”


A version of this article appears in print in the October 2019 edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline: A Cayman comfort zone