Izmirlian Stresses Service Culture

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Baha Mar's top executive says country must pull together to create competitive and seamless experience

MACAU – The top executive at Baha Mar intends to get the very best out of Bahamians when it comes to service, and is calling on all citizens to pull together and deliver a stellar product.

Sarkis Izmirlian, CEO of the mega resort, told Guardian Business that nobody forces tourists to choose The Bahamas. All Bahamians must make it easy for them if the country wishes its number one industry to prosper.

"We have come a long way with the new airport and the new road bringing people to Baha Mar," he said. "And it goes back to the service we provide the moment they arrive. We are all responsible to make sure we provide seamless service. If any one of us fails, we fail the country."

The topic of service is a timely one. In the lead-up to Baha Mar's opening in December 2014, questions have been raised as to whether the luxurious $3.5 billion mega resort can back up its brands. The project

is set to deliver thousands of new jobs when it opens next year.

Providing excellent service and bolstering "soft skills" among Bahamian workers have also been points of concern for the Ministry of Tourism, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association and the Inter-American Development Bank. Atlantis, the other mega resort on Paradise Island, recently noted that it often grapples with a skills shortage when it comes to hiring quality workers.

Several months ago, Guardian Business revealed that top executives from Rosewood, the most high-end brand at Baha Mar, met with tourism officials to specifically discuss the issue of service.

Izmirlian, who lives full-time in Lyford Cay, said that, in his experience, The Bahamas has delivered some of the best service.

"So I know we can do it," he added.

The key, according to the CEO, is finding a selection of people with a genuine service mentality. Those qualities are difficult to teach, he said, and the fact that The Bahamas is a small country makes it a challenge to find those people in significant numbers.

Izmirlian said the ongoing efforts in high schools and The College of The Bahamas, effectively headhunting the best in Bahamian tourism, should go a long way. The resort has also an active campaign overseas to locate and woo Bahamians living abroad.

"We are going to get the best out of the Bahamian people," he told Guardian Business.

William Weidner, the CEO of Baha Mar's new casino partner, Global Gaming Asset Management (GGAM), will also play an important role in service culture.

Indeed, the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel is the largest of the brands and services as the centerpiece of the resort.

His approach involves borrowing some of the employee principals at Disney, the iconic tourism brand. In his mind, Bahamians need to feel like the employer cares about them. If workers feel valued, those positive sentiments will find themselves in the workplace.

"When people come to work, there is always something else going on, such as issues at home," Weidner explained. "How do we create an environment where the employee can solve or forget about that? We need to help them get rid of that, so they can only focus on the customer in front of them."

Jeffrey Todd,
The Nassau Guardian
Published: May 24, 2013