Jaime Garcia – Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Going full growth mode in the very competitive hospitality industry, Karisma Hotels & Resorts recognizes the young tourist as the most desired demographic. Satisfy him or her in Cancun and that customer may be inclined to pursue their next R&R at a Karisma lodging elsewhere in the tropics. Maybe even in the Balkans.
As the list of Karisma’s options to recreate expands, the upscale chain is constantly looking to plant an all-inclusive resort in another exotic destination. Only it’s well aware that sun and sea aren’t all the contemporary traveler expects. They’ve also got to have the kind of technology that enables them to access any service via mobile device or app.
Already proficient in these areas, Karisma enhanced its techno-creds in August, bringing Jaime Garcia aboard as vice president of information technology, and he’s hit the ground running. Then again, at Karisma nobody seems to stand still for long.
“High-quality Wi-Fi, data security and a strong network—all indispensable,” Garcia tells toggle in December from his Cancun office, as tourists arrive in droves from the north. “We’ve got to stay connected all the time.”
Garcia’s employer is in charge of 23 resorts serving travelers to Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. More hotels are in the planning stages, with Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic among the prospective hot spots for expansion.
Karisma can count on Garcia and his 38-person staff to keep all critical systems humming. That includes property management, enterprise resource planning, financial, purchasing, accounting, payroll, data security and, of course, tending to customers’ desires.
A 25-year veteran of hospitality industry technology, Garcia is well-suited for those tasks, his previous role being a seven-year run as corporate IT director at RCD Hotels whose holdings include the Hard Rock hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America.
His accomplishments there included the fast-tracked implementation of SAP—Systems, Applications, Products—to ensure the security and integrity of Hard Rock’s computers. Garcia seemed just the man to further upgrade Karisma’s software, and how he jumped at the opportunity.
“It was a new challenge and another step in my career,” the forward-looking Garcia says. “This would give me a chance to apply my skills on the international level. The company’s business is growing all over the world and it’s exciting to be part of it.”
Could be especially so in the Balkans, whose nations are said to be leading Europe’s new tourism push. Karisma seems ahead of the competition in this market, with three adults-oriented Sensimar resorts in that region’s most popular country of Croatia, all on the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Then there are two hotels in Montenegro and another in Serbia.
His guard up
With this kind of upper-crust clientele in such far-flung locales, Garcia assures that cyber defense never rests at Karisma, with firewalls and other redundant security means in place. And he’ll never lose pace with technological growth, it being his passion and source of livelihood throughout his professional life.
Born in the Dominican Republic, the bilingual Garcia earned a degree in systems engineering from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra and a master’s in marketing and communications from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).
“I recognized the need for technology in every industry and made it my career choice,” he explains. “IT is becoming the most important thing in society.”
For 12 years he’d serve as corporate info-tech director at Barcelo Hotel Group Mexico, part of the time teaching tourist and hospitality industry IT at Universidad Anahuac Cancun. He’d serve in a similar role at RCD Hotels until the call came from Karisma.
But it’s not by technology alone that Garcia wants his team to perform. Like him, he expects those under his wing to listen to others and find new ways to enhance the customer experience as well as the company’s IT.
The next few years seem both exciting and challenging. Aside from further harnessing the Balkans market, Karisma has been buying up choice land in Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, expecting to break ground for numerous resorts in all locales. Using technology to identify customer bases, Karisma markets itself on multiple fronts: adults only, boutique, family-friendly and even a nudist resort in Hidden Beach, a couple of hours south of Cancun.
The diverse clientele notwithstanding, there are common denominators, high among them the expectation of first-rate service. Nowadays such service necessitates the most modern technology that allows guests to use a laptop in the lobby, adjust the temperature and television settings in their room, summon room service or a taxi, and pre-order a meal from Karisma’s gourmet menu that accentuates local fare.
Those needs aren’t likely to be met unless the company itself is sufficiently wired.
If satisfied, guests are likely to spread the word on social media, which might be the best and most cost-effective advertising for any hotel. If unsatisfied, the reverse is true.
Karisma’s reviews have been upbeat, and while that results from a team effort, the IT department proves its worth as a behind-the-scenes player. It’s a role that Garcia distinguished himself in long before joining the team just a few months ago, and with him in charge of all things technological, the amenities are sure to upgrade.
“The millennials are our future,” Garcia says. “We’re always working with the latest technology because this generation needs to be connected all the time. The same goes for us.”
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