The general manager at the Blue Waters Resort and Spa in Antigua, who has spent 24 years working abroad, tells Janet Harmer why he has spent 17 of those years on the island
You have spent the past 24 years working overseas. What has kept you away from the UK for so long?
I have been away continually since 1992. I first took a two-year contract as general manager of the Rex Halcyon Cove resort in Antigua, which was renewed. I had a few opportunities to return to the UK, but on each occasion the timing or the opportunity just wasn't a good fit.
So what keeps drawing you back to Antigua?
Antigua and Barbuda, the twin island nation, is a very special place. The islands have been promoted in so many different ways, but ‘the Heart of the Caribbean' probably sums it up best. It is very much the ‘heart' in terms of location, but also in terms of the people who live here. It's a melting pot of different cultures, predominantly West Indian of course, but with a sprinkling of expatriated Americans and Brits.
The vibrancy of the people, their warmth and hospitality, alongside the music, the culture a climate of endless summer and 365 beaches, all make for a pleasant and relaxing lifestyle. We bought a home here, several years back, and have never regretted it for a second. Each time we go away to try somewhere new, Antigua draws us back.
Is there anything you don't like about Antigua?
Being a true Scot, there is a period of the year from August until early October when it just gets a little too warm sometimes. The politics are interesting too, but as an expat Brit it's wise to keep out of that!
Of all the countries you have worked in, which has been the highlight?
I have many fond memories of just about everywhere I have worked since leaving Scotland in 1992. However, there is more of me here in Antigua than anywhere else.
Nevis is another wonderful island with just the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. It's also where I made my debut in a soft rock band as a timid guitarist and vocalist!
Which country has been the most challenging and why?
I completed a very short post-opening stint [at the Ana Mandara Resort] in Vietnam, which I found to be probably the most demanding of all the positions I have held over the years. As well as practical issues relating to the infrastructure of the hotel, there were cultural obstacles to daily life in ‘up country' Vietnam, which made it all feel a bit too foreign for me. Many expats working in Vietnam love it and I can see why. I would love to go back for a holiday, but not to work.
Can you describe the style and setting of the Blue Waters Resort and Spa?
Blue Waters is located on the north west coast of Antigua in Soldiers Bay. It is colonial Caribbean in style with calm, cool interiors, 116 rooms and suites, and four stunning villas. We have a loyal following from the UK and many repeat guests.
The hotel has been privately owned by the Randall family for the past 32 years. They are closely involved in the running of the property, giving it a true family-owned feel.
How many staff work in the hotel?
How easy is it for British staff to obtain jobs in Antigua?
Preference is normally given to the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, then to citizens of other Caribbean nations and lastly to people from other countries. It really depends on the skill sets required as to whether a citizen of the UK may be considered.
How do you think working overseas has enhanced your career?
I am not sure that it has, but what I do know is that the love I have for hospitality has only increased over the years. The joy is in the giving, in seeing colleagues and team members around me develop, in developing the businesses with which I have been associated and in creating memorable experiences for our guests.
Do you have any intention of returning to the UK?
Not for the time being!
- 2016-present General manager, Blue Waters Resort and Spa, Antigua
- 2013-2016 General manager, Nisbet Plantation, Saint Kitts and Nevis
- 2012-2013 General manager, Cobblers Cove, Barbados
- 2008-2012 General manager, Blue Waters Resort and Spa, Antigua
- 2004-2007 General manager, Sunsail Colonna, Antigua
- 2002-2004 General manager, Carlisle Bay, Antigua
- 2001-2002 General manager, Banyan Tree, Seychelles
- 1992-2001 Various general manager roles in Antigua, Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives
- 1990-1992 General manager, Craigendarroch hotel, Ballater, Royal Deeside, Scotland