She lives by the mantra “your smile is your logo, your personality your business card and how you leave people feeling after an experience or encounter becomes your trademark.” Although she is just 24 years old, Simone Folkes has been making strides in the tourism sector. A Massage Therapist at the Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Simone’s exceptional service landed her the award of Individual National Champion for the Tourism Service Excellence Awards (TSEA), 2016.
An Ocho Rios native, Simone has seen her family serving within the sector, which may have contributed to her ability to provide such admirable service. Her mother was a housekeeper; her brother has worked as a waiter. Her older sister, she mentions was a Sales Executive and Loyalty Agent and another family member was involved in a hospitality training programme.
However, it is surprising that such a celebrated tourism service provider did not believe she would end up in the role she currently occupies. During her school years at Exchange All-Age and Marcus Garvey Technical High school, Simone actually wanted to become a nurse. However after encountering financial difficulties, she enrolled in a hospitality training programme in housekeeping. Despite being discouraged from taking on such a role, Simone stayed on as a casual, working for a few months at a time.
During her break periods, Simone would relieve Spa Attendants who went on vacation. She later joined the National Youth Service Programme and worked in the Beaches Gift Shop. After her short stint at the gift shop, she applied for a scholarship for the Sandals Corporate University, an opportunity which would allow her to becoming an award winning service provider.
“I applied and after multiple interviews I was accepted. I attended classes for a year and graduated at the top of my class. It was after the programme that I was promoted as Massage Therapist”
It was at this point that Simone truly started realizing her potential and love for her job.
“My customers value my kindness, and how genuine and attentive I am, no matter the situation. They appreciate that I listen to them and try to attend to their various concerns.”
Her skills and professionalism got Simone top ratings at Sandals, and although she has enjoyed the success of being first runner up in the 2017 staging of the St. Ann Festival Queen competition, along with a few sandals certifications, it was winning the TSEA award that brought everything full circle.
“I was really surprised when I was declared the winner, because all the nominees were phenomenal and have been in the business for a very long time, however I was really honoured. My mother said to me before the awards ceremony that I deserve the award because my journey has not been smooth and I work hard. My family is proud and my friends and family believe I truly deserved the recognition I received.”
Simone says that her peers and family believe that she is self-motivated. She credits her will power, to the struggle she watched her mother encounter while growing up, which she uses as a push to do well. Simone is thankful for the TSEA and believes that it will help to motivate Jamaican service providers. For her, it is evidence that the tourism service providers are appreciated for their hard work and dedication.
Being the go getter that she is Simone states that success for her is achieved through consistency, faith, hope, prayer, hard work, determination and pursuing everything with love and passion. And as she maneuvers the journey of life, she is not afraid to lose and learn. She still believes in becoming a nurse and plans to fuse her practice with hospitality and wellness.
TSEA’s main objective is to recognize and reward those service providers like Simone who continually provide excellent customer service within the tourism sector. Jamaica’s thriving tourism sector would not be able to celebrate its many achievements without those who make it their duty for guests to feel welcome and cared for during their stay on our island.
Nominate those organizations and individuals who you believe are deserving of the Tourism Service Excellence Award. Visit the Tourism Service Excellence Awards page at www.tpdco.org for further information and to access the nomination forms. Deadline for submission of nominations is Friday January 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm.