Hotels are usually a temporary haven - a place to vacation for a few days, even weeks, before returning home. But for 66-year-old Canadian national, George Tracey, the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort in Negril is where his heart lies. With some travellers spending on average, 100 nights in any one hotel, Tracey has spent 402 nights and counting.
The retired teacher from New Brunswick, Canada, having first visited Jamaica in 1970, returned to 'christen' the then-named Negril Gardens in 2006 when his travel agent got him a good deal. He has not looked elsewhere since.
The fun-loving guest has visited at least 26 times since then and with a myriad of other properties to choose from, Tracey attributes his return trips to the warmth of the staff. "It feels like my friends work here. I get along great with the staff; the resort is also very relaxed and because of its intimate size, it allows me to mingle with all the guests and locals ... I get to immerse myself in the culture and I love that!" Tracey does not stop there. "The food is also good and the staff members go out of their way to prepare meals they know I like, even when it's not part of their regular menu options."
Tracey is not 'hard to please' either.. He usually travels alone, stays in the same room and sticks to his vacation routine. "When I come here, I usually lie on the beach, go clubbing, play pool, swim or just relax. I see myself as an ambassador for Grand Pineapple and I make it my job to find out where the other guests are from and help make them feel at home," shared the grandfather of two.
Sharing an endearing 'family' moment, Tracey recalls one of his most memorable visits to the resort in 2009, after he was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes. "The staff sourced specially made sugar-free desserts and went above and beyond their call of duty to ensure I got what I needed and didn't feel like I was missing out on any culinary offerings. They always find out what the guests' desires are and do everything in their power to meet and exceed those expectations," he said.
Grand Pineapple's operations manager, Alexander Pike, spoke about Tracey's loyalty and great personality. "He's a real ambassador. In fact, whenever he visits, it's almost like he's the manager here," Pike shared jokingly. As part of the special arrangements implemented for George on this milestone 400-night trip, he was offered a complimentary VIP limousine transfer from the airport to the hotel, bestowed with welcome gifts and given special mentions at resort functions.
Tracey's presence has been so impactful on the resort that everyone calls him Mr President and the hotel has gone a step further to customise a plaque bearing the words 'The George Tracey Suite - GP President' on the door of the room in which he usually stays and also carved a tree stump on the beach with his name, likeness and his country's symbol - a maple leaf.
"It's one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I appreciate how much they go out of their way to welcome me back, and not just me, but the other guests as well. I have nothing but praise for the team; they treat me like a real 'yardie'."
Tracey will be returning in December 2013 for three weeks and yet again in March 2014 for another five weeks to visit his 'family' at his home away from home.