While the popularity of the Westin Resort and Villas continues to grow, hotel management is trying to stay one step ahead of industry trends by converting 108 hotel rooms into 54 two- and three-bedroom time share villas.
With record sales, management seems to be on the right track.
“We had a record-setting $5 million in time share sales alone in the month of December,” said Westin general manager Matt Balcik. “We also had a record first quarter with $11 million in time share sales. Those are the best sales numbers since 1999.”
“We are absolutely going in the right direction,” Balcik added. “This is what people want. Those sales numbers are unheard of.”
Four hillside buildings — 24 through 27 — are currently being converted from hotel rooms into time shares, with the first building scheduled for completion in November. The other three buildings will have staggered completion dates over the next several months, Balcik explained.
Elevators and Water Features
When completed, the buildings will be two-stories plus a mezzanine level and will have elevators in order to be wheelchair accessible. Water features, like cascading waterfalls, will be constructed between each unit, Balcik added.
“The units will have full kitchens and full bathrooms,” Westin’s general manager said. “They will be small apartment-type settings.”
The Westin’s time share surge is due to two factors, according to Balcik.
“The popularity of the Westin name has a lot to do with our time share success,” he said. “The Starwood network makes a time share very attractive to the average buyer who can trade their time for a week in Mission Hills or Hawaii.”
Existing time share owners, however, rarely exchange their Love City weeks for vacations in different locations, Balcik added.
Owners Keep Coming Back
“Ninety percent of our existing owners come back year after year after year,” he said. “Our exchange program here is the hardest to get in to — getting a week is very difficult. We’re lucky in that regard.”
With prices ranging from $40,000 to $120,000 for one week, the Westin team has been enjoying success, according to Balcik.
“To get people to invest that much and to sell as many as we have sold, we know our guests are having great experiences here,” he said. “Our January and February customer service surveys were the highest we’ve had over the past 14 months and our sales numbers are the best in the company.”
In addition to the extra time share units, Westin officials have been introducing programs aimed at affording guests unique vacation experiences.
Brand Cultural Training
“We recently rolled out Westin brand cultural training,” said Balcik. “Three hundred and fifty associates at this hotel and our partners went through this mandatory training and they all said it was the best training they ever had. Not only does it help us, but it helps our partners like Cruz Bay Watersports, Bougainvillea and Little Switzerland.”
The customer training reflects the Westin’s focus on creating “emotional connections” with their guests, added Balcik.
“The customer service training is part of our drive for emotional connection,” he said. “We are looking to create this memorable experience and give our guests the experience of a lifetime.”
In order to keep guests smiling, a new position was also added at the resort.
“The previous Director of Romance, Toya Frazier, is the new Director of Fun,” said Balcik. “Our guests here aren’t interested in how large their televisions are in their rooms. What they are looking for are memories to take back with them.”
Taking Home Memories
“Where else can you say you fed iguanas daily or your hermit crab beat out 20 other crabs in the crab race,” the general manager continued. “All those types of experiences add up to memories.”
As the new Director of Fun, Frazier is in charge of activities for all age groups at the resort, from children to seniors, Balcik explained.
“We are looking at having different activities for different age groups,” he said. “We know not everyone wants to do the same thing. We have different levels of passive and active activities that really cater to many different people.”
During Easter week, the resort staged a children’s carnival for the young resort guests which included coconut bowling, soccer games and other activities. The Teen Center, with an array of arcade games and flat screen televisions, is a popular draw for the teen-age set.
For adults and seniors, the resort offers a nightly Unwind time, Balcik explained.
New Heavenly Spa Coming
Expanded sales offices and a new Heavenly Spa are also on the books for the Westin, since the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee approved modifications to the resort’s original major land permit.
The 10,000-square foot spa will include full hair and nail salon features and massage, facial and hydrotherapy rooms, explained Balcik.
The existing workout facility will also move to the spa center, which will be constructed below the hotel lobby, while the site of the current gym will accommodate additional retail space. The sales offices will relocate to the lobby as well.
The resort’s Mango Deli will expand to offer more ready-to-make food for time share owners and new features will soon be popping up around the grounds, according to Balcik.
Beach B.B.Q. Pits
“We’re adding a fountain out near Little Switzerland because it’s a high-traffic area where a lot of people hang out,” he said.
“We’re also going to put hammocks around the resort and pits on the beach for barbeques. It all adds up to creating that unforgettable experience and emotional connection.”
With all the new plans at the Westin, the hotel rooms are not being left out, Balcik added.
“The lower hillside units were all renovated this year with new carpets, drapes and paint,” said the general manager. “In the 96 beach and pool rooms we replaced the bathroom tiles, bath tubs and the outside awnings over the walkways. And Snorkels Restaurant got a new kitchen and an additional seating area right on the beach.”
Six new private pool-side cabanas with iPod docking stations, flat screen televisions, cold towels, Evian spray and magazines, are also available to reserve.
New Menus at Restaurants
Even the Consolidated Resources-owned Chloe and Bernard’s restaurant on the second floor of the hotel lobby has a new feel, Balcik explained.
“We’ve changed the concept of Chloe’s into a steak house,” he said. “We rolled that out last Christmas and the customer feedback has been great.”
New menus have also been unveiled at Snorkels and the Beach Cafe, which have been enjoying “banner years,” Balcik added.
When all the projects are complete, there will be 174 hotel rooms and about 150 time share units, Balcik explained.
“We’ve had between 91 and 92 percent occupancy rates for the first quarter,” said the general manager. “Anytime you are over 80 percent, it’s a success. Our numbers are an indication of the hard work all our associates put in day in and day out.”
Management officials are also looking beyond the resort’s grounds to make improvements, Balcik added.
“We recently met with St. John Administrator Leona Smith and agreed to partner with other community groups and companies in an island beautification project,” said Balcik. “We’re going to pressure wash from the ferry dock all the way up to Woody’s Seafood Saloon, paint the curbs and plant flowers and trees along South Shore Road.”
Although the previously planned glass recycling center will no longer be located on the resort’s grounds, the company is still committed to funding the project, Balcik explained.
“While we won’t have the actual recycling machine here on site, we will still be a sponsor and support the recycling program,” said Balcik.
Westin management’s on- and off-site improvement projects are in line with the company’s values, according to Balcik.
“Personal, instinctive and renewal are the Westin’s core values,” Balcik said. “We have been keeping to those values and we are now reaping the rewards. At a recent Starwood Vacation Ownership regional meeting, our team of 14 sales executives took home six awards for excellence in associate satisfaction, financial performance and marketing performance.”