EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Coco Reef’s John Jefferis

By Ben KilbeyThe roof was raised in Barbados recently as the 11th World Travel Awards shook the stage at the Sherbourne Conference centre. Teems of hospitality giants dined on fine food and watched as an all-star cast of celebrity faces kept the crowd pleased with a patter of jokes and yarns. One familiar Caribbean hotelier was in exceptional good mood as his property - Coco Reef Resort in Tobago - picked up the Caribbean’s Leading Hotel accolade. John Jefferis, who has previously been named Caribbean Hotelier of the Year by the Caribbean Hotel Association, was extremely pleased to have won the sought after trophy. “I am very pleased to pick up this prestigious award - we have won many awards but I am particularly fond of this award as it is a global recognition.“John Jefferis is one cool customer. A familiar and much respected face of the Caribbean hospitality circuit - John is a wealth of knowledge on the industry and knows exactly what it is that keeps a hotel/property in the top spot.

“This is a very competitive business. Every year a property must see significant upgrade, if you do not upgrade your product then you will fall behind. This year we replaced much of our furniture and also refurnished our Sunset Villa. This is set on a secluded promontory (headland), and has it’s own forty foot deck over the ocean. It features butler service - so, in reality, a guest could do nothing but stay in the villa and be waited on hand and foot!”

Sounds stupendous. The Sunset Villa is popular with honeymooners and guests who simply require the ultimate in privacy.

Coco Reef is a very exclusive resort and caters for the discerning traveller. One of its most popular and lavish features are its Rolls Royce cars. These are used to transport guests form the property to the airport and vice versa. The two white vehicles really turn heads on the island and are a signature of Coco Reef.

For all of its amenities and five star qualities Jefferis believes there is one overriding factor to why Coco Reef recently picked up the Caribbean’s Leading Hotel award in Barbados.

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“It really is a reflection of our wonderful staff - they have a genuine desire to please our guests. 100 percent of our comment cards state that our staff made their stay the pleasure that it was - this is a fantastic achievement.”

Coco Reef has a handsome repeat visitor rate of some 50 percent with 90 percent of its clients arriving from the UK.

The majority of it’s bookings still come from the traditional travel agent but as the Internet continues to grow so does the need to expand the website.

“Obviously the Internet is a rapidly growing medium, we are currently in the process of having a new site built by Virtual World Internet. This will be a multilingual site - with some 22 languages I believe. The site is based on virtual tours of our property, which we are very keen on. People like the opportunity to have a more intimate knowledge of a property - this is the way of the future.”

One key emphasis for John and his property is the quality of cuisine on offer.

“Dining is critical component of many sophisticated travellers options. People’s expectations are much higher nowadays. For this reason we introduced Café Coco - to expand the dining options at Coco Reef.”

In summing up what it is that sets Coco Reef apart from other resorts in the Caribbean Mr. Jeffries was clear on what he believes it is that gives the property its star quality.

“In my final analysis I would have to say that, without doubt, what makes Coco Reef the property that it is, is the staff. Good staff are a product of good management and that comes from our excellent vice president and general manager, Eric Feniet.”

It is down to these people it would seem then that at present Coco Reef is running at some 98 percent occupancy with a “busy next three months” ahead.

Potential hoteliers should take note of an expert and his knowledge - in order to succeed ensure the vital components are all in order. Good staff, continual development and a location to die for! (oh, and a couple of beautiful Rolls Royce’s on a tropical Caribbean island won’t do you any harm either!)

For more information on Coco Reef visit www.cocoreef.com

For further information on the World Travel Awards visit www.worldtravelawards.com

Coco Reefs new Broadband website is pencilled in to be unveiled at this years ITB.
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