One Man – 7 Caribbean Islands
An Interview with Wilbert Mason of Ocean Club Resorts
By Tim Cotroneo
Which Caribbean island is the best? If you only had one person to ask this question, Wilbert Mason, the Managing Director of Ocean Club Resorts in the Turks and Caicos Islands, would be a perfect choice.
Ocean Club West aerial view
That’s because Mason’s nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry span seven different Caribbean islands. Mason’s rise through the ranks of some of the Caribbean’s most distinguished hotels and resorts provides this St. Vincent native with a unique perspective. Mason credits his parents Ashley and Vernette for teaching him the importance of hard work and following his passion.
In the middle of one of Ocean Club Resort’s best years ever, Mason was asked to share his thoughts on island culture, best beaches, geography highlights, and how to choose an island vacation based on individual desires. In addition to revealing insider secrets on the best the Caribbean has to offer, Mason also shed a light on some of his favorite hospitality memories and business practices.
Q. What was your first hospitality job?
While in college, I called a hotel General Manager in Provo, Utah, and offered to work for free on weekends. My goal was to get some experience prior to graduating.
I also had a job after school cleaning pots in the kitchen at Utah Valley University. I remember my boss asked me how I could do this job with such joy. I replied that I knew the position would be temporary. He soon promoted me to Cafeteria Supervisor.
Q. As you look back on that first job, do those memories help you encourage employees just starting out in hospitality?
Absolutely. Today I get paid to do what I love. I tell our Ocean Club employees that if they find their passion, we’ll help them live their dream.
Q. You went on to become a Butler on the private island of Mustique. What lessons did you learn from this role?
Mustique is part of the Grenadines chain of islands and is just over two miles long. In this position, I learned to anticipate a guest’s needs, exceed expectations, and to deliver on my promises. I also did my best to gather information both before a guest’s stay and while they were on island. This information offers a prime opportunity to wow your client.
Q. From Mustique you moved on to work as an Island Manager at Palm Island in the Grenadines. What was your favorite takeaway from this experience?
On a small private island, I learned how to solve problems fast. I needed to be calm, patient, and creative.
Palm Island was a place in which cross training was important. We had staff going back and forth accomplishing a wide variety of tasks. It’s important that if you notice a problem, you try to fix it. Palm Island was about developing relationships, both among co-workers and with guests. A private island is like a community. We worked as a team. The island was our job. It was also where I learned to lead by example.
Q. In 2003, you moved to Grenada where you became Assistant Manager at Spice Island. What are your memories of Grenada?
Grenada was very similar to where I grew up in St. Vincent. The island is volcanic, mountainous, and is known for beautiful waterfalls.
I remember the ownership of Spice Island Beach Resort was very passionate about delivering an authentic experience for our guests. We sourced local ingredients for much of our food, whether it was a dinner entrée or dessert.
Q. What stands out about working as a Front of the House Manager at the iconic Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados?
Sandy Lane was a little England in the Caribbean. The resort was quite British, quite luxurious, and the attention to detail was paramount in our every move. With Sandy Lane’s storied reputation, our clientele had high expectations. We did our very best to meet these expectations in every way.
Q. Starting in 2008, you worked for seven years as General Manager at Peter Island. What are your reflections on your long run in the British Virgin Islands?
The BVI is a great destination for those who love to sail. If island hopping is your passion, then consider Peter Island.
From a business standpoint, I remember implementing new processes that really flourished. I’m a believer in the 3P management style: people, product, and profit. You can also add process as a fourth cornerstone.Today I still stay in touch with many of the Peter Island staff and guests. We built a great team, and we continue to support each other.
Q. In 2015, you became General Manager of The Landings in St. Lucia. What do you like about St. Lucia?
Everything! I just love the island. I love the mountains, the food, and the people. Looking back, I miss the fresh foods of St. Lucia. The island really embraces the Caribbean experience.
Q. After previously working at the Regent Palms and Seven Stars, you’re back for a third time in Turks and Caicos as Managing Director of Ocean Club Resorts. What excites you about working on the island Providenciales?
I look at Providenciales and Ocean Club as a blank canvas that we can continue to develop.
The island is so close to the United States, and its home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Providenciales also offers legendary sunsets, and there is so much to do outside the resort. When it comes to accommodation product, it’s hard to beat Turks and Caicos.
Q. What does the future hold for Ocean Club Resorts and Caribbean tourism?
As Turks and Caicos continues to grow its presence in Caribbean tourism, it’s important that we raise the bar when it comes to sustainability. We need to make optimal use of environmental resources, as well respect and maintain our island ecosystem.
By emphasizing these best eco-practices, we can maintain the beauty, the culture, and simplicity of living and vacationing in a tropical paradise.