Working in the Caribbean: Hospitality Professional Russell George Details Global Transitions
Know what it takes to run one of the most successful and prominent business resorts in the Caribbean? If you’re Russell George, you make it look easy. An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience managing properties in locations including Ohio, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Chicago, George was appointed general manager of Hyatt Regency Trinidad in 2007 and opened the property in 2008. The Hyatt Regency Trinidad is one of the region’s premier business and meetings hotels and has hosted important international meetings with leaders from around the world, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Queen Elizabeth II since it’s opening.
In this interview with BlackEnterprise.com, George shares his early beginnings in the tourism industry, the challenges of his role, and what makes Trinidad a Caribbean gem.
How did you get into the tourism industry?
I majored in economics and political science in college, and [when I graduated,] I took my first job at a hotel in New York. I was scheduled to go to law school, however I was smitten with the industry and decide to stay in hospitality. I haven’t turned back since.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Many people focus on the sun, sand and sea when thinking of the Caribbean. Advising business travelers and meeting planners that world-class facilities exist in Trinidad has been the biggest challenge. We are working to inform travelers that the Caribbean, particularly Trinidad, is also a premier meetings destination.
Trinidad is a unique island in that it has a business environment with a tropical setting. The island meets the needs of leisure visitors but focuses on catering to business travelers. It has a very diverse population and culture combined with a proud and willing approach to business tourism.
The hotel has had visits from President Obama to Vice President Joe Biden to British royalty? How did these visits impact the hotel?
Hyatt Regency Trinidad has successfully hosted many notable conferences, such as Fifth Summit of the Americas, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting with 51 attending heads of state, and last year’s VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum. These conferences have spotlighted the fact that Trinidad can host very high-level meetings and conferences, and our hotel can successfully manage events of all levels that want to take place in the Caribbean.
How do you believe the hotel has been able to maximize Trinidad’s business tourism industry?
We have been the most successful hotel in the Caribbean to sustain meetings and conference business because Hyatt Regency Trinidad was built specifically for this market. With so many people coming to Trinidad and Tobago for business, meetings and conference travelers were top of mind when designing the hotel, from the guest rooms to the meetings space.
What’s been your greatest accomplishment since taking helm of your role?
We successfully navigated many major global conferences that have taken place in the Caribbean. Although both Trinidad and our hotel are small, we are able to execute a very high level of service and we continue to make a name for ourselves with this high standard.