Villa del Palmar Cancun
Interview with Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Juan Carlos Gonzalez shares with us an update about Villa del Palmar Cancun and his vision for the future of the resort.
1. Firstly, tell me a little bit about you?
I was born and raised in Guadalajara. I finished university there and I moved to Puerto Vallarta when I was 22. For the first year, I worked at a shoe store helping my parents. Then I got a job doing office administration work for Villa del Palmar Puerto Vallarta, Villa del Palmar Flamingos, and Villa La Estancia. I worked in the purchasing department for five years before being promoted to the Regional Purchasing Manager. Then I was invited to work as the Purchasing Manager for Villa del Palmar Cancun. I then got involved with operations and I worked for two years as the Rooms Division Manager and for one year as the Food and Beverage Manager before being promoted to the position of General Manager at Villa del Palmar Cancun two years ago.
I am passionate about my work and about being a good leader. I am also the father of two beautiful sons. I am committed to my position, my team, and my family.
2.What do you love about being the General Manager of Villa del Palmar Cancun?
I enjoy the challenge of managing the resort and dealing with any issues that come up. I love problem solving, helping to make our guests happy, and being a good leader to our staff.
I see the resort as my home and part of my family, and this sense of family overflows into our commitment to our members, whom we receive as though they have come home every time they arrive. I really cannot imagine working anywhere else. TAFER Hotels & Resorts is a great company to work for because of our high standards for our guests, and also because we cater to the needs of our employees. There is always support for them when they need it
3.Can you share with us a little bit about how the coronavirus pandemic has changed things at the resort?
Firstly, the coronavirus pandemic changed how we operate at the resort. We worked hard to implement new health and sanitization protocols, and we trained our staff in stricter sanitization practices and cleaning protocols. We implemented the use of a new FDA-approved chemical disinfectant that kills the virus, as a general cleaning product. We take the temperatures of our guests with an infrared thermometer when they arrive at the resort, our staff wears face masks at all times and social distancing is encouraged.
Another big thing that changed was our occupancy. Ever since 2016, the resort has operated at around 85% occupancy. It was difficult to adjust to a lower occupancy rate. We had to adjust our budgets to operate with strict controls, and still offer the same high-quality service that our guests are accustomed to. We also needed to manage our payroll and our staff schedule. We needed fewer staff, but we didn´t fire any of them. Instead we made a rotating schedule for them so some staff would stay at home, and some of them would be working, and still receive their salaries.
We also stopped the breakfast buffet and now offer an a la carte breakfast, but we will be reopening Caprichos Restaurant soon with chef assisted stations.
4. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Villa del Palmar Cancun?
Villa del Palmar Cancun opened as an all-inclusive resort. We learned very quickly that not all guests wanted to vacation with an all-inclusive plan, so we immediately changed to a hybrid resort offering both all-inclusive and European plans.
From 2015 onwards, we started focusing on the food and beverage experience at our resort restaurants, and there was a shift from providing good food to providing exceptional food. We hired a chef patron for each restaurant, each with their own specialty. We hired managers, a central kitchen chef to control the quality and the portions, chefs de partie, supervisors, and a Food & Beverage Manager. We raised our standards regarding liquors, and created gourmet menus at each restaurant with a unique dining concept. Since its opening, the standards of service and the quality of food have improved tremendously.
Mr. Schaaf, Vice President of Operations at TAFER Hotels & Resorts, also started focusing on training our staff in AAA standards. We invested in our smaller units, the Deluxe Studios, and added additional features that the units needed in order to receive the award, such as installing writing desks. Last year, we received the Four-Diamond award from AAA, which was a huge honor for us.
5. Can you tell us how you see Villa del Palmar Cancun evolving in the future?
I see it focusing on families. We are in the process of installing a new Wibit Floating Water Playground to amuse our younger guests, which should be opening in November.
Another thing we are trying to do is add more value to the all-inclusive experience. Right now, we are working on developing new experiences such as ¨Paella Time¨ and ¨BBQ Time¨ around the pool. We are also working on a new wellness program. We have recently hired a Wellness Ambassador, Lina Muñoz, and she has a great talent for teaching yoga, sound therapy, meditation, and Mayan rituals. We will be adding a Bicycle Tour to the El Meca Ruins, which is 2.5 km away from the resort, and it will take around 20 minutes to bike there. Our guests will be able to visit the ruins and then have meditation time with Lina around the pyramids. **
6. Being the General Manager for Villa del Palmar Cancun must be exhausting. What do you do to revitalize yourself? I like to go running and swimming and that helps me a lot to relieve stress and keep my body and mind in good shape. I run between 5 Km and 8 Km every day. Cancun has a big community of triathletes, and hosts several triathlons during the year, which I enjoy participating in.
I also enjoy spending time with my 5 and 7-year-old sons and my beautiful wife, who I am in love with. She always gives me strength and good advice whenever I need it. My sons love to be active and they are both on the soccer team. Sometimes we will take a day trip to visit some other resorts, islands and Mayan ruins. We also enjoy getting together with other families for barbecues.
7. What message do you have for members who are considering traveling for the holidays?
I would like to reassure members that we are committed to their health and safety, and we are doing the best we can to ensure they stay safe at our resort. We haven´t had a single coronavirus case here. The members that are staying with us right now, are coming to enjoy a break, and here you don´t feel like you are living during the pandemic times. Of course, we are exercising increased caution, and ensuring social distancing takes place around our pools and at our restaurants.
The reports of cases in the state are very low right now. We moved from an orange alert to a yellow alert, which means that the number of cases has decreased a lot. I know that many of our members are eager to travel again, and I hope that they will, and not let fear stop them. We all need to get back to living life at some point.
8. Lastly, can you share with us what it was like being at the resort during Hurricane Delta and what the resort did to ensure that guests stayed safe?
The hurricane passed here at midnight between Tuesday, October 6th and Wednesday, October 7th. On Monday, I had to make the very important decision about whether to keep guests at the resort or move them to a shelter. In the end, I decided to keep the guests here, because I had the confidence of knowing that our property was built to handle category 5 hurricanes, and that the structure of the building is very strong.
On Tuesday, we sent a letter to all guests to explain the situation. We moved all the beach beds, secured windows and doors with anti-hurricane panels, and closed operations around 6pm because we wanted to make sure our staff could go home safely to be with their families. We kept on staff in small brigades, who are trained to handle emergency situations. They receive annual training in hurricane contingencies, search and rescue, and water rescue because you never know what you might be faced with.
We prepared box lunches for all the suites. We moved all the guests to the center of the building because that is the safest place to be during a hurricane.
The power went out around 4am. We turned on our own power generator for 6 hours and after that we got back our power from the municipality. We were lucky because we were able to keep power, and a lot of resorts lost power for two days.
There was rain and high winds, but the property incurred minimal damage. Our WIFI was unstable, and there was some damage to the TV antennae’s, so we didn´t have TV channels for a few days.
On Tuesday, we closed all the food and beverage services at 6 pm. The next day, since we were operating only with the brigade´s staff, the service of breakfast, lunch and dinner, was slow, but at the end all the guests enjoyed a normal day, while most of the other resorts in the area spent that day getting back from their shelters.
After the hurricane passed, many of our guests and members reported feeling safe and they congratulated us for the way we handled everything, which was a huge relief.
## Garza Blanca Puerto Vallarta
At Garza Blanca Puerto Vallarta, we are so appreciative of our members for joining our club, for trusting us to create extraordinary vacations, and for choosing to spend their time with us.
Once again, we are hosting our weekly Members Cocktail in honor of our members. Every Tuesday at 5:00 pm, members of our Residence Club can meet in Blanca Blue restaurant to enjoy an assortment of hors d’oeuvres, sublime cocktails made by our talented bartenders, and have the chance to mix and mingle with other members. Members will also have the opportunity to meet the General Manager and his executive committee to share their comments and suggestions.
We have also resumed tequila tasting, which is exclusively for Elite members. Tequila tasting is held every Thursday at 5:00 pm at Blanca Blue Restaurant. During the tasting, Elite members will gain insight about tequila, a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, and they will have the opportunity to taste different types of tequila and learn about its unique characteristics.
Next time you visit Puerto Vallarta, make sure you come to our Members cocktail, where you can meet new friends, enjoy some cocktails, and above all, have fun!
Garza Blanca Los Cabos
AAA Team Trainings
Every week, we host AAA Team trainings where staff from several departments are invited to role play various scenarios from check-in to dining to ordering wake up calls. The goal of the trainings is to instill a strong sense of teamwork and to empower staff to improve their customer service skills, as we work towards the goal of making Garza Blanca the best resort in Los Cabos to be at. These team trainings help us to raise the bar of the level of service we offer, making sure that our guests and members are treated like VIPs.
Example Role Plays:
Check-in - During the check-in role play, staff carry out a sequence of steps making guests feel welcome, confirming their reservation, offering anti-bacterial gel, and providing personalized recommendations for their stay, ending the interaction with a thank you.
Lunch – During the lunch role play, waiters and hostesses perform a lunch service sequence. We check that the hostess provides a warm welcome to guests, and verifies any allergies, dietary restrictions or celebrations. Waiters are tested on their knowledge of the food and drinks menus, making sure they offer personalized recommendations and offer an accurate description of the ingredients in the dishes. Lastly, they confirm the guest´s order and close the interaction with a thank you.
All of these trainings are carried out in order to train our staff to anticipate the needs of our guests, and always be one step ahead. In general, we have noticed a great improvement in the standard of service offered by our staff.
When you next visit Garza Blanca Los Cabos, if you receive exceptional service from a staff member, please feel free to leave a positive comment for them at Front Desk or mention them in a comment on Tripadvisor.