Career & Education

Simone Folkes has a passion for tourism

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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SHE lives by the following mantra: “Your smile is your logo, your personality your business card, and how you leave people feeling after an experience or encounter becomes your trademark”. At the age of 24, Simone Folkes continues to make tremendous strides in the tourism sector.

A massage therapist at Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Folkes's exceptional service landed her the award of Individual National Champion for the Tourism Service Excellence Awards (TSEA) 2016 – testimony to her hard work in the industry.

A family background in the tourism sector — her mother was a housekeeper; her brother has worked as a waiter; her older sister was a sales executive and loyalty agent, and another family member was involved in a hospitality training programme — may have contributed to her ability to provide such admirable service, but years ago, this Ocho Rios native did not believe she would end up in the role she currently occupies.

During her years at Exchange All-Age and Marcus Garvey Technical High School, Folkes actually wanted to become a nurse. However, after encountering financial difficulties, she enrolled in a hospitality training programme in housekeeping. Although she was not encouraged to enter this field, she stayed on as a casual worker, getting jobs for a few months at a time.

During her break periods, Folkes would relieve spa attendants who went on vacation. She later joined the National Youth Service programme and worked in the Beaches Gift Shop. After her short stint at the gift shop, she applied for a scholarship to attend the Sandals Corporate University, an opportunity which would allow her to become an award-winning service provider.

“I applied, and after multiple interviews I was accepted. I attended classes for a year and graduated at the top of my class. It was after the programme that I was promoted to the position of massage therapist,” she said.

It was at this point that Folkes truly started realising her potential and love for her job.

“My customers value my kindness and how genuine and attentive I am, no matter the situation. They appreciate that I listen to them and try to attend to their various concerns,” she explained.

Her skills and professionalism got Folkes top ratings at Sandals, and although she has enjoyed the success of being first runner-up in the 2017 staging of the St Ann Festival Queen competition, along with a few Sandals certifications, it was winning the TSEA award that fulfilled her hopes.

“I was really surprised when I was declared the winner, because all the nominees were phenomenal and have been in the business for a very long time. I was really honoured. My mother told me before the awards ceremony that I deserve the award because my journey has not been smooth and I work hard. My family is proud and my friends and family believe I truly deserve the recognition I received,” she said.

Folkes says that her peers and family believe that she is self-motivated. She attributes her willpower to the struggles she watched her mother encounter while growing up, which she uses as an incentive to do well.

She says she is thankful for the TSEA and believes that it will help to motivate Jamaican service providers. For her, it is evidence that the tourism service providers are appreciated for their hard work and dedication.

Being the go-getter that she is, Folkes said success for her is achieved through consistency, faith, hope, prayer, hard work, determination and pursuing everything with love and passion. And as she makes her way through the journey of life, she is not afraid to falter and learn from her missteps. She still has dreams of becoming a nurse and plans to fuse her practice with hospitality and wellness.

TSEA's main objective is to recognise and reward those service providers like Folkes who continually provide excellent customer service within the tourism sector — who make it their duty to satisfy guests during their stay on the island.

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