Guest Experience Manager Sets Sail With Sandals

~ Marland Thomas and Sandals are a match made in hospitality heaven ~

 

Whitehouse, Westmoreland: If you’re willing to learn, they’re willing to train. At Sandals Resorts, they’re just waiting for you to put up your sail so they can apply the wind.” That is how Sandals South Coast’s newly appointed Guest Experience Manager, Marland Thomas (28) sums up his experience thus far after being introduced to the hospitality industry and Sandals Resorts almost by chance.

In early 2017 Marland was teaching Anatomy and Physiology to nursing students in Ocho Rios.

An alumnus of GC Foster College, the St. Thomas native also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from Lispcomb University in Tennessee.  “Returning to Jamaica I was pretty sure I had found my niche in a job that complimented my academic experience and passion,” said Marland.

But that all changed one faithful day when he was asked to chaperone a group of students on a trip to Sandals South Coast for a “Tourism in Schools” Lecture.

He recalls how enamoured he was with the luxury-included resort the minute their bus pulled into the driveway. “I was impressed with all the smiling faces and warm greetings and when we did our tour of the resort I was in awe of just how staggeringly beautiful it was.”

From his initial impression Marland says the environment seemed like one that would allow you to have fun at work while doing something impactful. “Seeing how happy the guests and the team members were, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I left the resort that day knowing that I wanted to work in the hospitality industry and at Sandals South Coast specifically. I think I actually applied that same week.”

Initially Marland applied for a job at Sandals’ Red Lane® Spa, as that area seemed most fitting to his expertise. But there were no vacancies at the time. However, Group Spa Operations Manager, Paulette Clarke decided to pass along his resume to Felecia Allen-Myers, Group Manager for Butler Services, who she believed could make good use of it right away.

At the time that Marland applied, Sandals South Coast was preparing to debut 12 high-end Over-Water Bungalows featuring state of the art amenities, exclusive perks and 24-hour Butler Service.

Newly appointed Guest Experience Manager, Marland Thomas
Newly appointed Guest Experience Manager, Marland Thomas

“I was over-joyed when I got accepted into the Butler Training Programme, I knew Sandals was taking a chance on me because I had no prior experience in the industry,” said Marland, “but looking back now I was also taking a chance on Sandals, leaving two jobs and a comfortable life in Ocho Rios and travelling across the island for a job I knew nothing about except that it seemed to require charisma and that I knew I had in abundance.”

 At the time Marland couldn’t see it, but now he says that segue into Butler Services prepared him well for the position he currently holds.

“As a butler, you have to interact with every department and at every level,” says Marland. “You learn to think on your feet and solve problems with finesse and you definitely learn the importance of creating healthy professional relationships with everyone in order to quickly execute on what is needed for your clients.”

 

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

After roughly a year of working in Butler Services, however, Marland was still hopeful for an opportunity with the Red Lane® Spas.

“That opportunity presented itself when Clarke called me saying there was an opening for a Spa Supervisor at Sandals Montego Bay.” Marland took the position, curious to see how he could apply his skills.

He never ended up doing any massages but as a Supervisor at the flagship property he certainly made enough of an impression that within a year (February 2021) he was asked to go to Beaches Ocho Rios as the Acting Spa Manager.

“One thing I’ve learned within Sandals is that if you work hard and apply yourself and produce results, doors will always open for you. That has been my experience and I’m truly grateful for that.”

Marland admits however that he actually longed to return to his first love; Sandals South Coast. “I knew they were looking for a Guest Experience Manager (GEM), and I applied prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, feeling confident that I was ready to take on the challenge.”

Fast forward to June 2021 and while acting in the role of Spa Manager in Ocho Rios, the Guest Experience Manager (GEM) position which Marland had applied for almost a year prior, was once again back on the table with Sandals South Coast now re-opened,

“I was at a cross roads,” said Marland. The position he wanted at the property he longed to return to, a confirmation as Spa Manager at Beaches Ocho Rios looming heavy in the distance and then he was also offered the same GEM position at Beaches Ocho Rios.

Without much deliberation, Marland returned to Sandals South Coast on the 27th of June and so far he has had no regrets.

“My job now is essentially quality control and ensuring that in every aspect of the operation we deliver on the experience that has been promised to our guests,” says Marland. “We’re operating in an environment of even higher guest expectations where we are expected to nail our Platinum Protocols and still deliver the highest quality of service, and I have a role to play in all of that.”

Very excited for Marlon’s re-entry into the Sandals South Coast team, is General Manager, Adrian Whitehead. “Marlon has shown himself to be an exemplary Butler, producing the highest level of customer service and now I’m so glad that he’s joined the Management team so he can take his skills of providing a Butler-level service and apply it to the resort’s overall guest experience,” says Whitehead.

 

A WINNING FORMULA

Marland on the go

Still Marland says he can’t believe how far he has come in just under five years with Sandals and all the opportunities that have been presented to him.

At just 28, to get to this point in such a short space of time, has definitely taken discipline and professionalism.

Marland says he learned at an early stage to set realistic goals and have a plan as well as patience. “You also have to be willing to do the work because there are no shortcuts to success and you have to surround yourself with the right people,” he noted.

As for where he sees himself with Sandals, Marland says it’s a great company to grow with.

“If you have a goal or a dream, Sandals is the company that will equip you with the resources you need to venture out on that path. They’ve certainly made my dreams a reality and I can definitely see myself on a promising trajectory within the hospitality industry.”

 

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