on the beach at the grand case beach club
The Grand Case Beach Club in St Martin.

In St Martin, the Legacy of a Legendary Caribbean Hotelier  

By: Alexander Britell - March 25, 2024

My favorite anecdote about the Grand Case Beach Club was when a guest came up to Wright during happy hour and told him how disappointed he was that he couldn’t find a room. He bemoaned that he would have to settle for one at St Martin’s La Samanna resort, one of the most renowned luxury hotels in the Caribbean, instead.

But if you’ve stayed at the Grand Case Beach Club, or met Steven Wright, its decades-long general manager and passionate steward, you understand completely.

This is no ordinary Caribbean beach hotel. It is a special place, a memorable one, one that has always managed to be transcendent.

Steven Wright.

Wright, a veteran of five-star hotels the world over, came to the French Caribbean village of Grand Case nearly three decades ago, and in his time managed to turn a small hotel on the seaside into one of the most beloved resorts anywhere in the Caribbean. The veteran hotelier just announced his retirement, stepping down and leaving a huge legacy at the French Caribbean hotel. To learn more, CJ talked to Wright about his career, his love affair with the hotel and the team who is already helping the hotel to be an example of Caribbean hospitality.

“He is such an inspiring person in general, but even more so as a leader,” says Laura Pikullik, the resort’s marketing director. “He has nurtured the team he is leaving behind for many years. Alexandra, the new General Manager, worked with him from 2014 to 2019, and they worked together for most of 2023 as well. Her management style, which is of course her own, still reminds me a lot of him. Everyone else on the operations team has worked with him for a long time as well and I think his influence has left a very positive atmosphere with the notion of continuous improvement and considering the staff as the soul of Grand Case Beach Club that has made it such a special place for so many.”

Talk about how you came to Grand Case Beach Club, what the hotel was like at the time, and how far it has come. 

I came to St Martin after Peter Island in the BVI, and another hurricane had closed them. The island and hotel was still very much in a recovery stage after Hurricane Luis from September of 1995, and had been cobbled back as well as the tight resources allowed. GCBC had also been in protection from liquidation, and everything had to be conservative and self generated. What set the place apart was the spirit that it had, and can-do attitude.

What do you feel makes this hotel so special? 

The property is intimate, serine and entirely unpretentious. Staff are very human and approachable…naturally hospitable. The proximity to a true Caribbean village with an abundance of fantastic food, from the simplest to the fanciest, is remarkable. What is so special is how it all comes together to make so many have a real and tangible connection to all that the hotel, the staff, the island and the visitors all add to make this a magic corner of the world.

What is your favorite memory at the hotel? 

After 27 years, there are so many…too many! We brought up two young boys, and they turned into fine men, we met so many amazing people from all spectrums of life, and saw individuals learn, grow and thrive…all due to this little place on the beach. Because it was not so long ago, the memories of Hurricane Irma and the aftermath, the Pandemic are still strongly with me, as intense, powerful lessons…though astonishingly positive, in-spite of the destruction and chaos that was created. We learned that through proactive and consistent actions and attitudes, we could not only succeed and prevail, we could thrive…and we did. 

How would you describe your management style? 

My exposure to some incredible companies and properties grounded me, giving me a solid foundation. What I learned over the years, and was shown to me here, was that seldom is it a lone superstar that makes a team win, it is the overall efforts of many, held together with common goals of constant improvement. Many small steps cover great distances when time and direction are allowed. I was lucky enough to be given that time. My style…consistent, calm nurturing and always trying to be positive, while embracing change and growth. Even in failure, there is much to learn and be gained.

What are the keys to a great Caribbean hotel? 

I remember the times when there were just a handful of remarkable hotels in the Caribbean, and that number has exploded! To me, a great hotel here has to have some harmony with nature, as our climate and geography are points that bring huge numbers of visitors to our shores. The open and relaxed nature of people in the region is a huge part of the atmosphere and then add in the various spices of diversity, cuisine, and style. So much is being done in the ultra-luxe portion of the industry, and while I enjoy and am impressed with it, the simple luxuries of comfort, health and safety, unpretentiousness and humility, of course in a beautiful setting, attended to by smiling, genuine and caring people…those are components of success.

You’ve been through so much at GCBC, from Irma to the pandemic, what does this hotel mean to you? 

The past few years have been the toughest, but also the most tempering ones, in which we learned what we were collectively made of. We were at the top of our game just as Irma hit, and were injured and humbled by the ferocity. Our community gathered together and we clawed our way out of the debris…just in time for the pandemic! We were tested and battle-hardened, and step by step emerged once again. I am extremely proud that 2023 has been the best year ever in the history of the Club, and I leave at a very high point…but knowing that all the parts are there for even better years ahead. I am excited to see where the current team will take it…even though a little sad that I’ll not be part of it. 

What do you want your legacy to be at the GCBC?

Long ago, Grand Case Beach Club became our home, and being separated is more like an amputation than a retirement. We have shared so much of our lives with the community that is GCBC, it is nearly impossible to imagine that a switch is turned…and it is over…but it is. The Club is in highly capable hands, and new challenges and achievements will lie ahead. From the new President (JF Billot), General Manager (Alexandra Chirlias), Rooms Division Manager (Lynn Taylor) Marketing Director (Laura Pikullik), as well as our recent Head of Housekeeping and Events Manager…they all are part and parcel of the team that we grew. The greater staff are and will be integral and growing with the new normals and evolving standards. I honestly hope that the tools and attitudes that I shared will serve them well…and if not that they quickly find and adapt new ones. Their success, I hope, and trust…will be my legacy.

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