Jonathan Reynolds is the general manager of Carlisle Bay, a luxury hotel in Antigua owned by Campbell Gray Hotels. He tells Janet Harmer how working on a small island brings him into contact with the local community
What is special about Carlisle Bay?
What encouraged you to work in Antigua? I had an ambition to work abroad for a long time. My first job in London was with Claridge's and I had planned to move to Europe directly afterwards. However I subsequently went on to spend 15 years in the capital, the final nine years with Campbell Gray Hotels who ultimately gave me the opportunity to work at Carlisle Bay.
What do you like about working in Antigua? I have what must be one of the world's best commutes. I drive, or occasionally cycle, to work through a rainforest, along a fruit tree-lined valley called Fig Tree Drive and arrive on a beach with views of the nearby island of Montserrat. Certainly a very different start to the day!
Is there anything you dislike?
I thought I would miss friends and family; however, we host a constant stream of visitors throughout the year, which reflects the appeal of the island. I do miss not being so close to mainland Europe and the ease of getting away quickly.
What have been the most challenging aspects of working on the island?
It has taken effort and persistence to make effective contacts with government agencies and reliable suppliers and contractors. Things have improved, however, as our contacts have increased.
Do you experience any difficulties working within a luxury environment in what is essentially a poor country?
Antigua is still a developing country, but crucially recognises that its fortunes are inextricably linked to tourism. Although by European standards, Antiguans generally live by modest means, they have an amazing spirit and zest, which first encouraged Gordon Campbell Gray to develop the property. Luxury of course means different things to different people and while a proportion of Carlisle Bay's residents are content to enjoy the resort, we encourage guests to get to know a little of the island, which inevitably enriches their overall experience.
What advice would you give to anyone in hospitality that wants to work abroad?
1 Do your homework. There is an amazing amount of information you can glean from the internet. 2. If possible visit the destination to view it first hand. 3. Go with an open mind and be prepared to learn.
Are there many Brits working in hospitality in Antigua?
A small number of Brits work in hospitality on the island. However, between November and May there is an influx of mega yachts and luxury charters, which substantially increases the number of expatriates. Across the Caribbean, there is a good network of expats across the islands.
Are there any aspects of Caribbean hospitality that the UK hospitality industry could learn from? Working on a small island you are acutely aware of your sense of place, from being in a pristine natural environment, to being adjoined to a small community, which to a large extent depends on the hotel for its livelihood. By contrast, it's all too easy while working in a metropolis to forget your links with the neighbourhood and immediate environs, which is a pity.
CV JONATHAN REYNOLDS
2009-2012 Resort manager, general manager, Carlisle Bay, Antigua
2007-2008 Hotel manager, Goodwood Park hotel, Chichester, West Sussex
1999-2007 Meetings and private dining manager, food and beverage director and rooms division director, One Aldwych, London
1998-1999 Assistant food and beverage manager, the Ritz, London
1995-1998 Purchasing co-ordinator, reception manager, the Savoy, London
1993-1995 Postgraduate management trainee, Claridge's London