‘I opened the first Riu in Jamaica’ Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

“I opened the first Riu.”

This was the piece of information proudly echoed by Carlington Pryce and Kagelia Spence during a media tour of the new Riu Palace Aquarelle, the latest addition to the Spanish-owned Riu Hotels and Resorts portfolio in Jamaica.

They are among the Riu’s longest-serving team members, having first at Riu Palace Tropical Bay in Negril, Westmoreland when the brand entered Jamaica in 2001.

“I had the opportunity to open the day for 2001 when Riu just started in Jamaica,” said Pryce, reflecting on his journey with the resort chain. He started as a waiter and now serves as Public Relations Manager at Riu Ocho Rios.

Riu Regional Director for Jamaica Frank Sondern has emphasised the hotel’s commitment to promoting people from within and ensuring its workforce is fully staffed by locals.

“We don’t have anyone that is really taken from outside. It’s all internal promotions. For this property as well, we took from other properties and refilled the lines.” He noted that less than one per cent of the workforce of the Spanish-owned business comprises expatriates.

Pryce and Spence shared their journey at Riu in an interview with Loop News on Friday, May 31.

RIU’s Regional Director of Operations Frank Sondern (left) and Carlington Pryce in conversation following a media tour of the new Riu Palace Aquarelle in Trelawny on May 31. (Photo: Shamille Scott)

Spence praised the company for enabling staff growth, recounting her transition from a trainee at Riu Palace Tropical Bay to her current role as restaurant manager at the new Riu Palace Aquarelle.

Reflecting on her professional advancement, she also noted the personal growth and changes she experienced working at Riu.

“I went to high school in Westmoreland; everything I knew and did was down there. It was an exciting experience to venture out as a young woman,” said Spence, who also worked as an assistant manager at Riu Ocho Rios when it opened in 2005.

Meanwhile, Pryce highlighted the personal development he gained over the past 20-plus years, detailing how his progression from waiter to manager cultivated self-discipline.

“Being responsible for something pushes you to work hard because you know you have things to take care of,” he said as he advised young professionals to set goals.

Pryce also stressed the importance of loving one’s job and being disciplined.

“Once you love what you do, your personality is synced to what you love, and then you’ll be the best at what you do, and the promotions will come.”

Kagelia Spence, restaurant manager at Riu Palace Aquarelle in Trelawny, poses for a photo following a media tour of the property on May 31, 2024. (Photo: Shamille Scott)

For Spence, Riu has provided is “a home away from home.”

She appreciates the family bond entrenched in Riu, saying, “It’s very rare in a huge company like this to be part of their family and feel appreciated. You accept a job, not knowing what the working environment will be, only for it to turn out to be a wonderful experience.”

Spence also expressed excitement at being part of Riu’s growth and witnessing the changes represented by the latest property.

“They move with the times. As time changes, the hotel changes as well. Riu Aquarelle is modern, it’s chic. I know this will be a hit,” she said.

Riu Palace Aquarelle showcases tastefully decorated, spacious, and bright rooms. Earthy colors and organic motifs play a starring role, with simple furniture and decoration. The hotel features photovoltaic panels on its roof, a first for RIU hotels in the Caribbean, designed to withstand hurricanes and generate significant energy savings.

Carlington Pryce, public relations manager at Riu Ocho Rios, was on hand to assist with the opening of the Riu Palace Aquarelle in Trelawny. (Photo: Shamille Scott)

For his part, Pryce shared pride in being part of a brand that continues to employ Jamaicans. “I feel great about this new property. It opens up more employment for our Jamaican people,” he said.

Long-serving team members like Sondern, Pryce and Spence have been credited for their input in the seamless execution of the Riu Aquarelle opening.

Niurka Garcia-Linton, Director of RIU Sales in Jamaica, noted that Sondern, like several other employees, has executed all the local Riu openings.

“Frank has been doing every single opening, and we are able to identify staff that are very solid and mature in their positions to come and assist with openings,” she said.

Riu Palace Aquarelle is RIU’s seventh hotel in Jamaica since the chain began operations there in 2001. With this new addition, RIU now boasts 4,274 rooms across its properties in Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios.