Welcome host thinks of guests as ‘family’
When my parents celebrated 30 years of marriage a few years ago, I wanted to gift them something special. An avid traveler and advocate of the “experiences rather than things” mentality, I decided to book them a few nights at a nice hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, where they had honeymooned three decades prior.
Turns out, the hotel where they honeymooned had since closed, so I used my Marriott Bonvoy points to set them up at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. After the trip, they reported back to me with three highlights: the food (specifically the breakfast buffet), the spa (they had enjoyed their first ever couple’s massage), and the staff. In particular, one employee named Ernesto. “He was so kind and helpful!” they told me. “He was our friend.”
Fast forward to present day: I’ve been living in Mexico City since the end of last year, and was craving a long overdue beach vacation. Puerto Vallarta is a cheap and easy 90 minute flight from my new home, so deciding to head that way for a weekend getaway was a no-brainer. Just as simple was the choice to stay at the Marriott, which had absolutely enchanted my parents.
When I told them I was going, the only thing they said to me was, “Look for Ernesto.” I was surprised that one staff member made such an impression that my parents still remembered him by name years later, but they were insistent — they even described his physical appearance to me, to make sure I found the right guy.
As I made my way into the Marriott’s lobby, I pondered the likelihood of finding my parents’ amigo: Did he even still work at the resort? Did I want to use my time from my precious two-night stay trying to track down the right one?
My thoughts were interrupted by the friendliest “¡Bienvenidos!” I’d ever heard. Right in front of me, smiling widely behind his face mask, was an employee with a name tag reading ‘Ernesto.’ Alright then!
It only took a brief conversation to understand my parents’ sentiments. Ernesto exudes joy and passion for his job and his city, and aims to build personal relationships with everyone whose path he crosses. That’s what his role as a “welcome host” at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta’s is all about. “I look at people that come from different places in the world, and I see my family,” he tells me.
Ernesto got his start at the Marriott seven years ago, working as a telephone operator. Even though his interactions with guests were minimal and not face-to-face, he would receive positive reviews on TripAdvisor for his outstanding service. “I love helping people. It’s in my heart,” he says.
Two years into Ernesto’s tenure, the general manager created a new position at the Puerto Vallarta location, after seeing the positive impact a “welcome host” had at a different property.
“Everyone told me, ‘Ernesto, this position has your name all over it!’” he recalls. “But I wasn’t sure if I should take the chance.” After encouragement from his boss and coworkers, he decided to apply, and was immediately offered the role.
Five years later, he feels like he’s found his calling.
Ernesto’s favorite responsibility is providing recommendations and tips for adventures around P.V. A third generation Vallartense, Ernesto takes great pride in showing off his hometown.
“We would come to him with one question, and he would respond with answers to three more questions we hadn’t thought to ask,” my mom remembers.
When he’s not stationed at his post in the Marriott’s lobby, Ernesto’s hobby and passion is art. “I’m always learning and practicing, drawing and painting,” he says. When the Marriott caught wind of his talent, they encouraged him to assist with–and eventually lead–a painting class. Today, guests can book an art experience with Ernesto right in the hotel lobby.
In addition to your artistic creation, a new friend is guaranteed.
Follow Ernesto’s artwork on Instagram.
Jenny Hart is an American travel writer based in Mexico City. Follow her on Instagram.