Positive growth for Unique Vacations

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Unique Vacations Limited (UVL), a novel call centre which is the global representative for Sandals and Beaches resorts, has grown by leaps and bounds since its establishment in 2004, officials have said.

“We handle everything for Sandals and Beaches. We do reservations, we do what we call a one-stop shop. So aside from the reservations aspect, we also do airfare, we book weddings, we book tours and ancillaries, we book various add ons, we have a travel agent department here, we have a workforce department that deals with our scheduling,” Paul Mullings, senior director of Call Centre Operations told the Jamaica Observer. “At present we are probably growing over the past number of years at about 10 per cent per year and we see that as an expectation going forward that we will continue to meet.”

Since its inception UVL has now spread to three other locations in the region. Overall, UVL now enjoys a workforce of 550 people in its four locations.

The pioneer Montego Bay operation, headed by General Manager Leezo Wallace, which now boasts 215 employees — all Jamaican nationals, started out with 23 people offering just reservations services.

“In total we have 215 employees at present in our Montego Bay location. We are a global centre, we have a total four locations, Montego Bay is our largest. Montego Bay is our flagship. We opened Unique Vacation in Montego Bay in December 2004. From there we subsequently opened an office in St Lucia, another office in Grenada, and our most recent office in The Bahamas. In total we have over 550 employees,” Mullings revealed.

With the Sandals chain continually expanding, the senior director in charge of all four call centres is projecting a further growth of UVL.

In fact, plans are in train to expand the Montego Bay flagship operation, which is sited at the Port Authority of Jamaica’s (PAJ) Data Entry Building Number 7 inside the Montego Bay Free Zone in St James.

“We are continuing to recruit, we are anticipating a growth in our workforce, especially in our Montego Bay office. We just moved into this new building. Originally we had taken 16,000 square feet and based on our projected growth, we acquired an additional 7000 square feet. So at present, the building in Montego Bay houses 23,000 square feet in total,” Mullings divulged.

“We are currently doing our phase two build-out on the additional 7,000 square feet. We are looking in the future to expand. We are looking for young individuals who are willing to come in and learn from us and progress within the company.”

Speaking at the recent official opening of Data Entry Building Number 7, Prime Minister Andrew Holness bemoaned the wanton piracy of workers by rival call centre companies.

“I am always concerned when I hear of situations that a BPO enterprise opens just a few doors down and then the BPO enterprise that was in existence would come to work on a Monday morning and half its staff is gone over to the next BPO and then they are in a quandary and a scurry trying to find replacements. We hear those stories and the Government takes it seriously,” the prime minister pointed out.

But Mullings expressed that because of UVL’s attractive salary packages and incentives, the company is not affected by high level of staff turnover.

“It’s always a possibility of somebody wanting to experience something new (but) we are never intimidated by it. We don’t have a particularly high turnover where individuals are leaving to go to other jobs within the free zone because our compensation packages are so high that people want to come here as opposed to leave it,” Mullings disclosed.

The UVL executive underscored that his company is heavily focused on the motivation of its staff. Among other benefits, UVL provides gyms, hot meals for lunch for its workers.

“We make sure that we keep our agents happy. We have given away 16 Iphones this year, multiple televisions, over 20 air tickets,” the senior director disclosed.

Additionally, he stressed that the company is heavy on training which includes in- house and “we also bring in a lot of external trainers from the UK, from the US and a lot from the Caribbean.

“Our biggest focus is on training and development, being that we sell a very complex commodity that’s of a high price point. We want to ensure that all our personnel have the requisite training and the necessary development and coaching that will allow them on a day-to -day basis to speak with our clientele and continue to push the Sandals and Beaches brands. We continuously do refresher training courses. When we hire individuals, they go through a eight-week training session so it’s quite intense, it’s just focusing on nothing on training before we actually take them out on to the floor then once they go out on the floor we go through a four-week shadowing process where they actually sit with an established agent and they are able to get a feel for doing the job itself. Aside from the classroom training they are now getting a level of on-the -job experience,” Mullings noted.

He further stated that as a part of training, agents are sent on familiarisation trips to the different Sandals and Beaches Resorts and stay there “as would a guest”.

“So aside from being in a classroom and aside from looking at a computer, you are actually able to physically see the products and that’s not just for Jamaican properties, that’s all of our properties. We send our agents to Turks and Caicos, we send our agents to The Bahamas, we send our agents to the EC, so they are able to see and physically experience what it is they are selling. In December with all of our centres, we sent approximately 350 of our employees on fam trips and that’s overseas fam trips,” he said.


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