barbados hotelier in front of chta sign

The Secret to Great Hospitality? For Barbados’ Top Hotelier, It’s “Excellence Everywhere”

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - May 23, 2024

Renowned Barbados hotelier Patricia Affonso-Dass was recently crowned Caribbean Hotelier of the Year by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. 

Affonso-Dass, the group general manager of Barbados’ Ocean Hotels Group, earned the honor during the CHTA’s Caribean Travel Marketplace conference, the region’s premier tourism marketing event. 

So what’s the secret to hospitality success? To learn more, Caribbean Journal caught up with Affonso-Dass during the conference at the Montego Bay Convention Center in Jamaica. 

What does it mean to win this award?

It’s an emotional one for me, winning the award. I’ve admired so many of the people that have won it before me. They’ve been mentors, icons in this industry and I very much consider the award kind of the recognition for commitment to excellence in hospitality. And I love the Caribbean deeply. I’m a real Caribbean person, and so to be part of an organization that leads in that space, which is obviously CHTA, and have them recognize my effort, is truly humbling.

How would you describe your hospitality philosophy?

How would I describe my hospitality philosophy? I think certainly the mantra that we use at Ocean Hotels is “excellence everywhere”, and that is my hospitality philosophy. So no matter what aspect of the industry you’re in, what job you have, what role you play, I think that that commitment to excellence, making sure that you show up as the most excellent form of yourself, your guests have the most excellent experience you can provide them with the destination is as excellent as you can make it. I think that’s very much for me where I come in the industry. 

What’s your favorite memory as a hotelier? 

A million favorite memories. My first job was being involved with CHTA, I was hired as the executive assistant at the Training Institute back then. And so I met all these incredible people who 35 years ago were at the point in their career where they were so excited and passionate and I thought, my God, if that could be my life, who wouldn’t want to do that? 

But quite apart from that, I just think many of the memories are centered around events like Marketplace, where you get to see this industry progress. When I think of what this event looked like 30-odd years ago to what it looks like now, it’s been incredible to see the growth of Caribbean hospitality. And I think my affiliation with the organization has allowed me to see that and it’s really quite humbling and it’s exciting

What’s going on with Ocean Hotels? What are you up to? Congratulations on the debut of The Rockley [the company’s just-debuted hotel].

The Rockley, that was a cool project. It was loads of fun to do that. Ocean Hotels as you’re aware, we have O2 Beach Club and Spa, which we launched in 2021 that’s really been doing well. We’re kind of in a good groove now. We have the Sea Breeze Beach House, that’s our family property, and that’s been having a really exceptional time the last couple of years. 

rockley barbados
The pool at The Rockley, the newest hotel in Barbados.

With The Rockley, we wanted something that was so truly Bajan that you couldn’t ignore it. So that’s what that product is all about. Any place that’s going to have a black belly sheep in their lobby, it’s kind of as authentic as you can make it. We are about delivering the best guest experience and the best product to visitors to Barbados, and so that’s very much what Ocean Hotels is about, where we’re going to continue going and developing the best team.

Where do you see tourism in the Caribbean right now? What gives you hope for the next few years? 

I think what gives me hope is I look at a lot of young people coming into the industry today. Our CHTA Young Leaders program is really focused on developing that next tier of leadership coming into the industry. And I’m excited by what I see. 

We have some really great young people out there in every facet of the organization. I’m really excited by the level of creativity in terms of the accommodation space, a lot of really cool, innovative product that’s coming on stream. 

I’m encouraged by kind of this move towards a more authentic form of Caribbean service where it’s not the kind of traditional “yes or no ma’am type service, but it’s just genuine, warm, engaging. So I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction and I’m loving the kind of integration and cooperation and that kind of unity amongst the destinations. 

We’re looking at developing more kind of multi-destination tourism, and I think that’s been something that I’m so passionate about. I mean, Dominica, Barbados, what an amazing combination, and there are a million other examples of that across the region.

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