A FAMILY AFFAIR: Hotel business sealed with love
WHETHER at home or at work, the lives of all members of the Seale family are bound up in the hotel business.
The family: Gordon Seale. Maria Nancy Seale. Morgan Seale. Dominic Seale.
The hotels: Sand Acres Hotel. Bougainvillea Hotel. Amaryllis Hotel.
Family and hotels are inseparable and impermeable. In other words, sealed.
With their well appointed Maxwell Coast Road, Christ Church home sitting just a stone’s throw away from two of the three hotels they own, Gordon Seale, wife and sons can hardly escape from the challenges of the business.
And they have chosen not to. That’s why they so enjoy it.
“It is a family affair,” explains Maria Nancy.
Sitting with her husband and their younger son Dominic in the seaside restaurant at Bougainvillea Hotel, she said: “We are always involved in everything here or at home, and there is always a conversation about the hotels and what else we can do. Every time we either travel together as a family or on our own, we look at ways of making the hotels better and what else we can do for our guests that makes them happier.”
Maria Nancy said theirs is a round-the-clock involvement.
“We don’t really get away from the business. As a family we kind of live it all the time and with cellphones now, it is pretty well 365 days a year.”
Apart from everyday involvement in the hotel, she owns and operates La Tienda boutique which she describes as “my baby besides my boys.”
The Bolivian-born Maria Nancy understood what her part of the bargain would be when she married the ambitious young Barbadian hotelier just as he was launching into the hotel business. Then, from early, the interest and involvement extended to their sons.
“All of the family has always taken an interest in everything that goes on here. Both of our sons worked in most of the departments at the hotel,” said Gordon, who was reminded by Maria Nancy that this was the case from when they were very young.
“They started sweeping and mopping and cleaning, and the older they got they were given responsibility to work in different areas. So they have gone through the entire hotel, really,” he added.
Last year the Seales added the former Amaryllis Hotel on Hastings Main Road to their stock and put older son Morgan in charge. With a team of 65 he is feverishly working to open the doors of the new Sugar Bay Hotel (as it has been renamed) to guests on November 1. Like his parents, he is overwhelmed by the support he is getting from his Bougainvillea staff family.
Gordon studied hotel management at the University of Guelph, Canada, in 1968 and got his first experience working with Holiday Inns in Canada as a management trainee.
Returning to Barbados, he soon bought a popular club, the Banana Boat and continued its operation with the biggest dinner show on the island. He was also involved with Robin Walcott in the running of the Garage nightclub that featured disused vehicles as seating for patrons.
But he made his big foray into the hotel industry when he bought out the shareholding of a 200-plus group to acquire ownership of the 38-room Sand Acres Hotel, Christ Church, where he had worked as manager.
From that success he was able to build the first 20 rooms of Bougainvillea in 1994, completed the project as a 100-room hotel in 1997, with the help of his wife.
Before this interview last week, the three took a quick stroll around the grounds to survey activities in the pool area where guests were swimming in the crystal clear water. They walked out to the beach where others lounged on chairs under large beach umbrellas while more guests basked in the heat of the late morning sunshine.
Dominic completed studies in architecture and international relations at the University of Miami last year. He has just launched out on his own, opening the Red Door Lounge on the West Coast.
“I don’t really work with the hotels now except for maybe designs and renovation or stuff, or if I see things that need help service-wise I may get involved. But I am busy with Red Door now.”
On the Sugar Bay site Morgan spoke about the encouragement he constantly gets from Bougainvillea staff. “They will show up here on their off-day and they will say, ‘Hi Morgan, we just came to see if you are okay. Can we help you?’ This means a lot to me.”
Gordon has thrust full responsibility for the 145-room Sugar Bay on the shoulders of his 25-year-old son and Morgan admits: “It is a big job.
“It is not easy. I think when I first got into it my very naive thinking was ‘sure, no problem, I will get it done, no worries’.”
But reality stepped in.
There are anxious times in the process, but this is when the graduate of Ontario’s University of Guelph draws on the experiences and lessons learnt in the early days of the hotel business.
Travelling with their parents has also been an education for both boys.
To their mother, Morgan and Dominic’s exposure to, and experience of two different cultures, has been another valuable form of education that becomes relevant to what they do.
The Seales – solidly booked for every season of the year and every year of their lifetime.