Sir Royston Hopkin of the Spice Island Beach Resort
From high school drop out to the Queen's Honours: Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG, has risen through the ranks to become one of the most respected leaders in the Caribbean tourism industry.
Words by Natasha Were
Chairman and owner of the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada, Sir Royston Hopkin is a man who upholds the highest of standards. His low-rise, luxury hideaway, tucked amongst sea grapes and palm trees on Grand Anse beach, is one of the finest boutique hotels on the island. The combination of regally appointed suites, superb facilities and impeccable service have earned it a host of awards and accolades and it features in several prestigious collections of luxury hotels.
The consummate host, Sir Royston is a constant presence at the resort, sharing a joke here, a word of advice there, and inviting guests to regular cocktail parties at his home. At 72, he is always 'on' but, as he says, when it’s a passion, it's not work.
The eldest of seven siblings, the young Royston was raised in a hospitality environment. His parents ran the successful Ross Point Inn guesthouse, and their children – several of whom went on to work in the hotel industry – grew up absorbing the subtleties of the business.
Transforming what was the simple Spice Island Inn into the upscale destination it is today has been a labour of love lasting, guided by Sir Royston’s instinctive understanding of what visitors want, and where tourism is headed.
When I comment on the exceptional quality of the beds, following a blissful night in the palatial Saffron Suite – a 1400 square foot haven of elegance, complete with hot tub, wet bar, private patio and direct beach access – he responds with a story.
As a young man building his first house, he says, he had a choice. He could afford either to build two bedrooms and furnish them cheaply, or he could build one bedroom and equip it with the finest bed that money could buy.
He built one bedroom. It is this approach – opting for the best quality he can afford – that has driven the development of his resort over the past 30 years.
It is evident in every aspect, large and small: from the serene spa, state of the art gym, children’s centre and water sports facility, to the Frette linens, Molton Brown toiletries and Nespresso machines in every suite.
Although awards are not the endgame, receiving the coveted AAA Five Diamond award last year is a point of both pride and frustration for Sir Royston. Only seven properties in the Caribbean have earned this distinction, and of these, Spice (as he affectionately calls it) is both the sole independently-owned property and the only one that is Caribbean-owned. "Why should I be the only Caribbean man with a five star boutique hotel? It’s a travesty!" he declares.
And this is where the other aspect of Sir Royston’s impressive fifty-year career has focused: on promoting and raising the standards of tourism not only in Grenada but throughout the Caribbean.
Having left school at 17 with no interest in further education, Sir Royston spent a few years living the fast life: driving flash cars, going to parties, entertaining the ladies. But by the ripe old age of 20 he realised he was ‘a man out of control’. The time had come to straighten out.
He joined the family business, working his way up from the bottom. He also became a member of the Jaycees, a service organisation mentoring young entrepreneurs. Their motto, "serve with honour, not for honour", is one that Sir Royston embodied wholeheartedly.
When the Grenada Tourist Board asked the Jaycees to send them a representative, the young Royston, being the only one with any knowledge of tourism, was put forward. At 20 years old, he was the youngest ever member of a tourist board.
Not long after, his father, one of the founding members of the Grenada Hotel Association, asked his eldest son to represent him at a meeting. By age 24, he had been made president of that association.
From there his career went international, serving with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism. Although these posts earned him multiple awards – not least of which was his CMG in 1994, elevated to a KCMG in 2004 – all were honorary and therefore unpaid positions, often requiring extensive self-funded travel.
In his keynote address at the Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum in June 2017, he acknowledged these organisations not only as forums for building relationships with other industry leaders, but as ‘universities without walls’ for the next generation of tourism professionals.
A champion of the Grenadian people, Sir Royston supports local talent, from artists to tour guides, through his resort operations, and has set up a scholarship fund that puts needy children through school. Every member of his staff is Grenadian: all receive ongoing training and development, those that need it are put through their basic schooling, and the best are recognised and rewarded regularly. It’s quite simple, he says: If you treat your staff well, they will treat your guests as number one.
His success as a hotelier combined with his selfless service to the industry, have made Sir Royston Hopkin one of the most distinguished figures in Caribbean tourism. At home in Grenada, he is a local celebrity. Journeying around the island, it was clear whenever his name was mentioned, that people from all walks of life hold him in high esteem. Whether they work for him, know him or know of him, there is a sense that his countrymen are proud to count him amongst their own. As one local resident, with no ties to the man or the hotel, so aptly put it, "His standards of excellence are something to which we can all aspire."
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