With the initials of the greatest entertainer of all time, M.J., Michael James, as he is more commonly known, enjoys having a cold one with his buddies and taking in a good movie…that is, when he’s not working to perfect the operations and hardworking team members of Sandals La Toc in St. Lucia. The resort’s General Manager for the last two and half years, everyday, James looks forward to the opportunity to wear many different hats and also take in the ambience of the Emerald of the Caribbean.
SL: What do you like best about being the General Manager at Sandals La Toc?
MJ: Situational management is definitely always the flavor of the day, the need to choose and assume the role of a coach, diplomat, parent, psychologist, consultant, to mention a few, makes for exciting and rewarding days. At the end of the day, witnessing team members playing their part in delivering that “Wow Experience,” and in return having guests stop me as I walk the property and say, “Michael, you run a fine establishment,“ is extremely gratifying.
SL: What is your most memorable guest story?
MJ: While there have been many memorable stories, there is one story in particular which caught the attention of the entire team—a story which causes one to pause and think about life, and the importance of being thankful and appreciative for what we have…three months ago I had the pleasure of meeting a couple at the SSG cocktail party, who later sat at my table for the dinner that followed. Everyone had an enjoyable evening. Three days later while walking the property, I met the same couple and inquired how they were enjoying their vacation. The gentleman told me they were having a great time but would not be returning. I was confused by his reply, but before I could respond, he said, “I have been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. I have been to your resort before and had a wonderful time and chose to come back, as I wanted my last vacation with my wife to be the best.”
SL: Why do you think people call Sandals La Toc the “Emerald of the Caribbean?
MJ: Emeralds occur in hues ranging from yellow-green to blue-green with the primary hue being green, a color that conveys harmony, love of nature, and elemental ‘joie de vivre.’ Sandals La Toc, a 220–acre enclave, with its lush hillsides, rolling fairways, the most breathtaking vistas, and luxuriant gardens, offers a unique blend of seclusion and genuine sophistication. Suffice it to say, Sandals La Toc is in itself, a rare and valuable gemstone. No wonder it was love at first sight for our Chairman, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
SL: What are some of the new and exciting things going on at Sandals La Toc?
MJ: One exciting addition is the introduction of the Sushi Bar for lunch at our Kimono’s restaurant. We’re also refurbishing our Tennis Court suites—the Honeymoon Regency Hideaway One Bedroom Suite with Private Pool and Honeymoon La Toc Deluxe are the first of 12 suites slated for upgrades and scheduled for completion October 1st 2012.
Everyone here is excited to see the final product! At Sandals La Toc we take staff wellness seriously. Another new initiative, “The Biggest Loser,” a weight loss program, has managers and team members working out together. This has created a very positive and competitive vibe on the resort!
SL: What’s your favorite menu item from Pavilion?
MJ: I cannot say I have a favorite menu item. It’s all amazing. However, I do enjoy the “event dining experience” that the Pavilion offers.
SL: What is one special thing your staff does to ensure that guests will return again to Sandals La Toc?
MJ: I feel it is important to note that our team members understand that we are not in the resort business; we are in the experience business. Life is about emotions and experiences, and their mission is to create and capture those moments.
SL: Are there any special traditions or rituals done as guests arrive or leave the resort?
MJ: Management is present and engaged during arrival and departure and an exotic cocktail is also offered on departure. On heavy departure days, our lobby is transformed into an ”entertainment center” with the Playmakers assisting in creating a positive vibe.
SL: What is one thing all guests of Sandals La Toc must do before leaving the resort?
MJ: It is obligatory for all guests to experience La Toc, our French restaurant, before leaving the resort. La Toc has gained the reputation of delivering an authentic memorable culinary experience—a must do before leaving us!
SL: If there was a song out there that could define the Sandals La Toc experience, what would it be and why?
I am confident in saying that one can extract lines from many different songs which together can frame the La Toc experience. For example, Simply the Best, by Tina Turner, really captures our team members’ engagement. The line “You can check out any time you want but you can never leave” from the song, Hotel California, is a reflection of the La Toc experience, in that you can physically checkout; however, mentally your memorable moments will never leave.