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SPOTLIGHT ON Deborah Yager Fleming, CEO and partner of Acqualina Resort and Spa on the beach

By Sharon Hirschowitz

Deborah joined the Acqualina pre-opening team in 2004 and in 2011 she became a partner in the hotel with ownership interest. She has been the driving force behind their Forbes Five Star Award and AAA Five Diamond award, and heads the hotel’s Executive Committee, seeing the brands long term strategies through from conception to execution.

TripAdvisor and U.S. News have both named Acqualina Resort best luxury beachfront hotel and number one resort in the United States for 2019, which is an incredible feat. What do you think sets you apart from the rest?
At Acqualina our mission is to have happy dedicated team members who deliver exceptional guest experiences while constantly striving to do better. Passion, curiosity and technology are integral in our strategic business plan.  Our passionate team members deliver guests dreams. We teach team members to be curious and challenge the status quo, this is key to improving what we do daily.  Follow through on training sessions to help our managers practice “critical thinking”  helps us look for what does not make sense and helps us change our point of view to ensure that we are customer centric. Using technology to improve our efficiency and allow our team members to be more effective with their duties creates a winning solution not only benefiting our hotel guests but also benefiting our team members and ultimately our business.

How have you motivated your staff to stand behind the brand so enthusiastically?
Through our family culture, conversation and collaboration. We consider our team members our family, we trust and empower them to create personalized experiences that last a lifetime.  Recognizing and rewarding our team members  remains a foundation for our success.  We have leadership standards that inspire such as believe nothing is impossible and be uncomfortable with imperfection and do something immediately to correct it. We also provide the resources to free up time for our team members to focus on WOW stories and build a bond with our guests. We are an independent brand with ownership that is present daily and accessible to all team members. We enjoy the opportunity to converse with the team on whatever is on their mind and gain insight on how we can help them further succeed. We implement new ideas quickly, respect each other, and are committed to quality and harmony.

How do you create personalized stays for your guests?

We have a Golden nuggets initiative which requires active listening, and paying attention, we train on this daily and it allows our team members to connect with our guests and create truly remarkable WOW moments. We have a customer centric approach that translates beyond team members and management into senior resort leadership. While at other properties meeting the General Manager or Hotel Manager is a rarity and generally occurs for VIP clients or in the process of guest pacification, at Acqualina it is our goal that every guest is met by not only a senior member of the leadership team but by either of the aforementioned if not both throughout their experience on multiple touch points.  By conversing with our guest we are able to find out valuable information that can be utilized to improve the existing and further enhance their stay at the resort.


Do you use technology to gain insight into their preferences or enhance their stay?
We do use technology to help us with anticipatory service, and employee engagement to create special personalized experiences that exceed expectations and make a lasting impression. We are always looking for technology solutions that translate into fast service delivery while not compromising our quality. During the third quarter of 2019, we will introduce a new App to help us further personalize our services from the moment our guests reserve their hotel room through their entire stay.

If you could spend a few hours at the Acqualina Resort relaxing, what would you do?
Our elegantly designed beach experience with signature red couches, chairs and umbrellas is a hallmark of our brand. I would enjoy a long leisurely lunch sitting on one of our outdoor living room settings on Seashore Paspalum grass, followed by a visit to our five star spa. That would be absolute bliss.