Bermudian Hotelier John Jefferis Celebrates 50 Years in the Hospitality Industry

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Local News & Alerts | 0 comments

Famed hotelier/developer John Jefferis, JP is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the hospitality industry.

John Jefferis, his wife Jennifer and their son Johnny Jr.

Jefferis is the owner of Coco Reef – Bermuda, Coco Reef – Tobago and a number of other businesses in the Caribbean region, including Cuba. He started his career as a 15-year-old pot washer at a fish and chip restaurant in London. Today, he is the Chairman and sole shareholder of the Palm Reef Hotel Development Company Limited, Coco Reef Resorts Ltd and Island Resorts International Ltd. He is also the Chairman of Inflite Catering, which is an airline catering company with operations in both Bermuda and Tobago.

Jefferis studied at Birmingham University where he was awarded the Hotel and Catering Institute’s National Award for the top final year management student. As a result of the award he was able to secure an internship at the Savoy Hotel in London. He then moved to Bermuda where he was appointed Assistant Manager at the Belmont Hotel. He was subsequently promoted to General Manager at the Belmont and was the youngest person ever to hold that post.

Jefferis then became Managing Director of the Elbow Beach Hotel and Development Company and a member of the Board of Directors. During his tenure at Elbow Beach, he instituted a number of new ideas. These included the installation of the first international toll free reservation lines direct to the Island in 1984, the production of a much celebrated Elbow Beach Promotional Film and the first sub-leasing of a hotel restaurant to a celebrity chef.

Whilst at Elbow Beach, Jefferis instituted the idea of adding a Resort Levy to the guest’s bill. This idea was subsequently copied by many other hotels in Bermuda. Over the years, the Resort Levy has provided participating hotels with millions of dollars in much needed net revenue.

During his time at Elbow Beach, the hotel’s market share and reputation increased dramatically, making it one of Bermuda’s most profitable hotels. In 1991, Jefferis was responsible for the preparation, contracting and subsequent sale of Elbow Beach to a most Distinguished Wealthy Investor.

The new owner invested substantial funds in the upgrading and complete renovation of Elbow Beach.  Jefferis managed the renovation and upgrading of the property, which was based on the interior design style of the finest luxury resorts. He also obtained permission from the Cabinet for Elbow Beach to build and sell condominiums that were to be built on the hotel property.

Jefferis was also the owner of Edgehill Manor, Roxy’s Night Club and the Palm Reef Hotel, all of which he later sold. He was the major shareholder in the Haley Corporation, which was for many years, Bermuda’s largest Tour Operator and provider of tourists.

Jefferis, a past President of the Bermuda Hotel Association, was the driving force behind Bermuda joining the Caribbean Hotel Association, despite much local objection and severe criticism. He went on to become President of the Caribbean Hotel Association from 1996-1998 and Chairman from 1998 – 2000.

Whilst President of the Caribbean Hotel Association,, Jefferis was  the originator of the Crystal Palm Awards, a highly acclaimed gala dinner event held annually in London. The Crystal Palm Awards were designed to recognise and reward excellence in the field of Caribbean tourism support in the UK and Europe, by tour operators, airlines, journalists and individuals.

Also, whilst President of the Caribbean Hotel Association, he was the innovator and Chairman of the first Caribbean Hotel Association Investment Conference, an event that continues to be held to this day.

In 1992 Jefferis commenced the financing, design and construction of the $72 million Coco Reef – Tobago which became one of the Caribbean’s most successful properties. The opening of Coco Reef – Tobago, which Jefferis designed, caused British Airways to fly direct to Tobago which made Tobago a serious tourism destination. A well-known leading Caribbean Tour Operator/Airline Executive stated: “Without Coco Reef, there would not be any tourism in Tobago.”

In 2003, Jefferis acquired the lease for the financially challenged Stonington Beach Hotel in Paget. After spending $14.3 million in additions, reconstruction, renovation and refurbishment, it was reopened as Coco Reef – Bermuda in 2004. The reconstruction and renovation of the property included the construction of a forty foot high, award-winning atrium lobby, a new terrace restaurant, new swimming pool terraces, a French baroque style private dining room, antique furniture, custom designed bedroom furniture, original paintings, extensive landscaping, including the planting of 17 mature coconut palms, a new porte cochere and the construction of an additional new 200-metre elevated private beach.

Jefferis has won countless accolades and awards including:  Bermuda Hotel Association’s First “Bermuda Hotelier of the Year” in 1989, Caribbean Hotel Association’s “Caribbean Hotelier of the Year” in 1991, Caribbean World’s  “Lifetime Achievement Award in Tourism and Travel”  in 2008 and Ernst and Young’s  “Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 2000.

Coco Reef – Tobago has won The World Travel Award for the “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel” for the past 11 years. Most recently, in 2014, he was named International Caribbean Life’s  “Entrepreneur of the Year.” For six years Jefferis was Chairman of the Caribbean Hotel Association’s Marketing Committee.

An avid squash player, Jefferis was Captain of the Bermuda Squash Racquets team. In 1983 Bermuda was the winner of the Caribbean Squash Championship, held in Barbados. In partnership with his good friend John Harvey, Jefferis was selected by Eric Morley – the owner of the Miss World Competition – to be the owner of the Bermuda – Miss World Franchise.

He was a member of the Bermuda Tourism Board for many years during the glory days of tourism when the Hon. C.V. Woolridge, Bermuda’s most celebrated and successful Tourism Minister, was the Minister of Tourism. He worked on a number of Tourism Projects for the Minister, including being a member of Minister Woolridge’s Committee that selected Bermuda’s most effective advertising agency.

In 1991 he was the Founder and the first President/Bailli of the Bermuda Chapter of the Chaine de Rottiseurs, the world’s most prestigious Gourmet Society.

Reflecting on the past 50 years, Jefferis said: “Hotels are my first love and passion. I have enjoyed almost every minute of being in the hotel and associated businesses for the past fifty years. I have been really fortunate to have worked with some amazingly talented people over the years. People who have shared my passion and affection for the hotel business. I fell in love with Bermuda when I first arrived on the island and I am delighted to have used my knowledge and vision to make a small contribution to the tourism industry of this beautiful Island.”

On a personal note, Jefferis has been married seven times and has six children. His youngest child, three-year-old Johnny Jr. is his only son.

Currently, Jefferis has a number of projects that he is working on including the construction of a Caribbean Fine Art Gallery Tapas and Wine bar in Paget, a 46-unit condominium and villa development at Coco Reef – Bermuda, the addition of nine luxury villas at Coco Reef -Tobago and the acquisition of another hotel in the Caribbean.

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