The Westin Resort and Villas’ new general manager, David Yamada, is no stranger to the hospitality business — or the Virgin Islands.
Yamada, who got his start in the hospitality industry in 1973 at the Los Angeles, California airport Marriott, served as the general manager at the former Renaissance hotel on St. Thomas from 2000-2004, and was the president of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association from 2002-2003.
“I started working in night audit at the Marriott, and then worked in different departments at a number of different hotels over the next several years,” said Yamada. “I became the resident director of room operations for Marriott, and then opened up a Marriott in Kansas City in 1990.”
Yamada then joined the ITT Sheraton corporation in 1992, when he spent four years as a general manager and area director in Dallas. Yamada spent the next four years working as a general manager with Interstate Hotels.
Previous V.I. Experience
The new Westin GM first came to the Virgin Islands in 2000, where he managed the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort until it
changed ownership and eventually closed its doors in 2004. During that time, Yamada served as the president of the V.I. Hotel and Tourism Association.
“We created the Tommy Star Award while I was there, which was a great accomplishment,” he said.
During his final year in the V.I., Yamada had the opportunity to teach a semester-long hospitality course for juniors and seniors at Charlotte Amalie High School.
“It was a great experience seeing our future staff in the early years,” said Yamada. “I prepped them to do internships in area hotels.”
Yamada left the V.I. in 2004 to manage a golf resort in Florida and a Renaissance in Oklahoma City, but he couldn’t stay away from the territory for long. He was called back in February to serve as the Westin Resort’s general manager, and is excited about joining the Starwood-managed hotel.
“I know a number of individuals in the company, and I’ve always found the Westin brand very innovative,” said Yamada. “I think that carries over into all Starwood brands, which are seeing continual growth. There’s a lot of nice improvements going on here now, and we expect more over the next couple of years.”
Continuing To Improve
While he’s enthusiastic about managing the Westin Resort and Villas, Yamada is even more excited to have returned to the Virgin Islands.
“I love the beauty of it, and I’ve found the people to be very genuine,” said Yamada. “There’s a great culture here that I missed when I left. Since 2000, I’ve had a great spot in my heart for the territory and it’s nice to come back.”
Yamada plans to continue to offer the high level of service Westin guests have come to expect, he continued.
“We want to continue to elevate the experience that every guest has,” said the new Westin GM. “The resort is known for its service, and we want to continue to improve. We have a wonderful staff, so it’s just a matter of setting the right priorities and getting them implemented.”
Yamada looks forward to being joined on island by his wife, with whom he just celebrated 35 years of marriage. The Yamadas have a 20-year-old daughter who is attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
“I’m just happy to be back,” said Yamada. “It feels like coming home. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”