West Indies Yacht Club: When Cultures Collide

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Case Analysis:
West Indies Yacht Club Resort: When Cultures Collide

The British Virgin Islands (BVI’s) are made up of thirty-six islands, less than half of which are actually inhabited. Though the government of the British Virgin Islands has restricted development and growth, the vacation and tourism industry has ceased to develop into a profitable, yet highly competitive market. There are mainly five upscale hotels, one of which is the West Indies Yacht Club Resort (WIYCR). The WIYCR was established in the early 1900s by an eccentric yachtsman named Armin Dubois. In 1973, the property was bought by Joe Kimball, who saw the potential for development. Today, the WIYCR is famous for its boat collection as well as its top of the line sailing instruction programs. Although the WIYCR has operated successfully since its inception, recently some alarming problems have become evident, and have seriously affected the operating performance of the resort. Q1. What operating issues face Jim Johnson as chief manager at West Indies Yacht Club Resort? How might the problems limit the resort’s ability to meet the needs and expectations of guests?

The WIYCR is troubled with internal problems that have started to affect its normal day to day operations. As the resort staff is composed of expatriate managers and local employees, there is an underlying cross cultural communication barrier for both the management and their employees. It is evident that the cross cultural barriers are leading to problems in all areas and operations of the hotel; four of which resolution is critical for success. First, there is a high level of expatriate turnover. Secondly, there is a remarkable increase in the number of guest complaints. Third, a strong tension between the expatriate at local staff exists. And lastly, the motivation - or lack there of – is non existent in the local’s work ethic. Additionally, the WIYCR’s management team is divided into two parts: the head office in Chicago, and the resort management in the British Virgin Islands. While solutions exist to these problems, they are not solely caused by the lack of technical and professional staff, but rather the cultural differences amongst the organization and the strict governmental regulations imposed by the local government.

As the general manager, Jim Johnson lives offsite in Miami, Florida with his family. Though he is confident in his management team and staff, he is not usually there to witness the day to day operations and implementations of his corporate strategies. Additionally, as the corporate headquarters are located offsite in Chicago, the marketing, finance, and reservation systems are based hundreds of miles away from the physical resort, which ultimately concerns the staff onsite. As Jim only visits the British Virgin Islands a few weeks a year, and never during peak season, he cannot fully understand the culture and employee needs, nor customer satisfaction. This gap has resulted in various communication issues in which corporate promises one thing, and the onsite team is unable to deliver. In one particular instance, the Chicago office had over-booked the resort by nearly twenty percent without telling the guests. Therefore, during the peak season the number of guests was higher than the carrying capacity of the resort. There were not enough staff present to properly serve the guests and there were not enough rooms available for the guests. Ultimately, they had to put guests up on boats for few nights until rooms became available. Moreover, this was not the first time the Chicago office over-booked in high season, as it had continued to happen for over the three years. Corporate was essentially ignoring the recommendations from the Rooms Division Manager and staff under the department, which partly contributed to the current low staff morale.

There not only exists a gap in communication between corporate and the WIYCR, but also between expatriate managers and...
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