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Leon Williamson stepping up at Sandals South Coast

BY KARENA BENNETT
Staff reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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When 18-year-old Leon Williamson was selected for the Hospitality Training Programme by Sandals Resorts International, his first thought was that the course was “out of his league.

Fast-forward a year and half later, Williamson has not only graduated from the six-week training programme offered by Sandals South Coast as top male trainee, but was immediately confirmed in a concierge position at the all-inclusive resort.

In fact, the Kingstonian-born Williamson was recently promoted to the post of butler, following the official opening of the Over-the-Water Bungalows at Sandals South Coast, Westmoreland, in December.

“My first job was at the Mobile Phone Doctor in Black River. But one day a good friend of my mine suggested that a job in the hospitality industry would really suit me. She told me that being a concierge would go well with my personality and my response was, what's a concierge — that sounds fancy,” Williamson told the Jamaica Observer.

“I looked it up and said this looks good, emailed my application, and within three weeks I got a call for an interview,” he continued.

Raised in Newmarket, St Elizabeth, Williamson entered the Sandals South Coast training programme with only knowledge gained from his five subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate. The fear of the training programme being “out his league” was sparked by the bachelor's degrees held by his teammates.

In 2016, more than 270 people from the Whitehouse, Westmoreland region were trained in the programme at Sandals South Coast, some of whom are said to be gainfully employed within the hotel industry.

Today, Williamson is among 12 butlers hired by the hotel to manage 12 bungalows at the rebranded Sandals South Coast. His job is of high importance for the company, which touts the personalised butler service as one of the high points of visiting the resort. According to Sandals, the butlers are trained in accordance with exacting standards by the International Guild of Professional Butlers, which provide butlers to nobility and celebrities.

Now 20 years old, Williamson is responsible for assigned guests vacationing in the Over-the-Water Bungalows from the moment they arrive on property.

“A butler, in contrast to the position of concierge, is a lot more personalised. It's basically bringing all the areas of the hotel to the guest. So anything the guest wants, either it's the spa, room service, a day outside of the hotel, it's our responsibility. We must be able to fulfil all the requests,” he told the Sunday Observer.

He added that while the responsibilities of a butler are more demanding than that of the concierge, the workload is still manageable, as each butler is assigned to only two bungalows at any point in time.

Sandals South Coast says the strategy is employed to ensure that the workers are not overburdened with requests, as well as it ensures the guest a satisfying stay.

Having operated Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay for over 36 years, Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, in 2014 announced plans for the Caribbean's first Over-the-Water Bungalows. The company pumped US$5.5 million in what was termed the “game-changer” for hospitality in Jamaica, with the renovation of 14 suites.

Sandals Resorts International then expanded the concept to Westmoreland, adding 12 suites accessible by way of a heart-shaped pier. Williamson reckons that the concept will create another option for tourists looking to vacation in exotic locations.

“Having a suite over the water is not something that you see in the Caribbean. I do believe that Sandals has definitely raised the bar, particularly with the glass floor concept. I believe it's an initiative that will help Jamaica to attract more guests, especially those from Europe,” he said.

The Lewisville High School, Newmarket in St Elizabeth graduate envisions himself as manager of the butlers at Sandals South Coast in the future. He also hopes to that his tenure at Sandals will further fuel his dream of working in the aviation sector.

“My aim is to see how far I can go in the hospitality industry,” he said.

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