HM on Location: How Marriott repositioned its Grand Cayman resort

In the Cayman Islands, the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort has completed a renovation to its guestrooms and suites. The hotel’s team has been working on the renovation for years, General Manager Hermes Cuello said, determining both the project’s scope and what direction it would take. Construction finally got underway at the end of last June and the project proceeded in stages by wings and floors, with each floor requiring two months or less, according to Director of Operations Diego Lemasson Majó. Around 150 workers were on site every day, working in different areas of the rooms. 

Step by Step

Those 150 people worked in specific teams for specific tasks, Cuello continued. For example, one team would remove a room’s furniture, and another would then remove the carpeting. A cabling team cut the walls open to run new fiber optic cables and wires, while the plumbing crew removed the bathtubs to install new walk-in showers. “We're going to keep 25 percent of the hotel with bathtubs,” Cuello added, noting that some families may not want walk-in showers for younger children. 

Dedicated teams then installed the new luxury vinyl tile flooring and the drywall, and finally painters and wallpaper crews gave the rooms their colors before the furniture was put in place. “A lot of different crews worked on this project and they worked seamlessly to get the project completed in a timely fashion,” Cuello said.

The LVT flooring both helps rooms look cleaner and offers operational efficiencies over carpeting, the men said, and Lemasson noted that the property’s beachfront location also made hard-surface floors a better option than carpeting. The hotel team also made sure to install a layer of soundproofing beneath the LVT to keep the volume down between floors.

Aesthetic Upgrades

Once the logistics were in place, the artistic elements could be put in. Circular photographs of the area’s coral reef hang on the walls, and artwork in the bathroom also depicts a beach scene. The guestrooms also got wallpaper along one wall that goes from bright orange at the floor to bright blue at the ceiling, evoking a clear sky over a beach. 

“We want to make sure that a customer who [goes] into our room feels that [they are] in the Cayman Islands,” Cuello said of the artwork. “When we were planning the renovation, we were very clear that we wanted to make sure that the room represents the island, that the room represents the concept of the hotel and we incorporate elements of the local nature.” 

Grand Cayman Marriott Resort Family Room
Family rooms at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort have bunk beds and expanded storage. (Marriott International)

The hotel also repositioned its 15 junior suites by completely redesigning the space. New features include a partition to divide the bed and sitting areas. Four new family guestrooms have bunk beds and expanded storage options. The total room count grew from 299 guestrooms to 301.

As the rooms were updated, hotel employees were invited to take the former furniture, fixtures and equipment as souvenirs for their own homes. 

Tech Improvements

The hotel team also used the renovation to implement a mobile key system for the guestroom doors—a “very important initiative” for Marriott International, Lemasson said. The digital keys are more convenient for guests, he explained, and also give the hotel team better control over security. 

Grand Cayman Marriott Resort Guestroom
Guestrooms at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort have artwork depicting a coral reef and updated connectivity. (Marriott International)

The property also installed DPNs internet connection, which Lemasson said would enhance the speed of connection, and a new phone system for both guestrooms and the hotel staff. Cuello highlighted new outlets installed around the room to accommodate multiple guests’ devices at one time. “Every family that travels to the hotel comes with four or five devices,” he noted, adding that a single traveler also could bring that many devices with them. “We had an approach to ensure that we have the right outlets in the right positions in the right locations.” Outlets were installed on the side of the bedside tables so that they face the bed, making it easier for guests to plug and unplug their devices without sitting up. The outlets also accommodate a range of different plugs for different needs, including international plugs and adapters. 

Finding a Balance

Notably, the hotel remained open throughout construction—a factor that Cuello described as “challenging.” To keep things operating smoothly while the upgrades were underway, the hotel team worked “very closely” with the construction team’s project manager, Lemasson said. Together, they determined what areas of the hotel to block off for the workers. “These are daily and weekly follow ups that we do all together [to balance] the needs of the operation, the needs of the construction [team] and the guest experience,” he said.

Communication, Lemasson added, is crucial during a renovation—especially when a hotel remains open throughout. Cuello said that the hotel team was regularly updated on the project’s progress so that they could easily explain to guests what was going on. “We have been doing a lot of training sessions and a lot of town hall meetings where we are able to show the details,” he said. “We also did tours around the new renovated products so they would understand the direction and where we are going with it.” The hotel team worked with communications agencies to make sure the public was aware of the construction and kept the Cayman Islands’ Ministry of Tourism & Ports up to speed. “They also have to be involved and know what is happening with us,” Cuello said. Owners London & Regional Hotels and Marriott International have also been involved and will help share the story when the project is complete, he added.