Twenty-five years ago today, Disney Vacation Club opened its third property and second beach resort: Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Reminiscent of a 1940’s-era hunting and fishing lodge, the resort is set among mature live oak trees (some more than 300 years old) and features many recreational activities, including 12 miles of breathtaking beaches.
Often, we hear from members and guests that it is the cast members who bring the magic of resorts like Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort to life. So to honor the 25th anniversary, we wanted to highlight one of the many amazing cast members who continues to welcome members and guests “home” to this one-of-a-kind retreat. We had the opportunity to catch up with General Manager Jerome Smith to learn more about his unique history at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort and why he loves making magic.
Jerome has spent his entire career in hospitality, but he was looking for something more when he had the opportunity to meet with Disney. Of that first meeting he said, “Within an hour I knew my career was going to be with Disney. I could feel the magic, the appreciation Disney has for its cast members, and that it was a place where I could dream bigger.”
In 2012, Jerome joined the cast of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort as food and beverage manager, overseeing the operations of two quick-service restaurants and the resort’s bar. Within two weeks of holding this role, Jerome identified opportunities to improve efficiency, and member and cast satisfaction. He impressed the resort’s management who began setting him on a leadership path.
Jerome served as food and beverage manager for three more years during which he was challenged by the general manager to continue to do everything he did behind the scenes while also building in plenty of time to interact with guests and cast to further improve the experience for all. He embraced this challenge with such enthusiasm that it led to him being appointed as the resort’s first duty manager.
In 2017, Jerome was appointed general manager, becoming the first African American and first South Carolina local to hold this role. His leadership skills were quickly tested by Hurricane Irma’s arrival just a few weeks later. With his leadership and support, cast members were able to safely evacuate guests from the island, close the resort, repair damage and reopen to welcome members home as quickly as possible.
“We are a family here, both cast members and Disney Vacation Club members — we are all family,” said Jerome. “My word of the year is ‘impact,’ how can I make the biggest positive impact for all 150 cast members and our guests. Everything they say to me matters, and I know what I say matters to them.”
While his days as general manager are quite busy, Jerome loves receiving visits from members every week. They stop in to say hello during their stay at the resort and recall the interactions they had when he served as duty manager. Jerome knows the work that he and the cast are doing now to provide excellent service and build meaningful relationships with each other and guests will ensure the resort continues to provide magical vacation experiences for the next twenty-five years.
ABOUT DISNEY’S HILTON HEAD ISLAND RESORT:
Located on the picturesque coast of South Carolina, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort offers a multitude of unique recreation options that can turn any guest’s stay into a true adventure. Families can zip down the wraparound Water Tower Slide at the Big Dipper 72,000-gallon heated pool, while young children can frolic with water-spitting frogs at the Little Dipper Pool. Nature lovers can enjoy fishing, biking, kayaking, a leisurely stroll on the beach and more.
CELEBRATE THE ANNIVERSARY WITH A DIGITAL BACKGROUND:
To help you make this island getaway the backdrop of your next virtual meeting, we’re pleased to present this downloadable digital backdrop to magically transport you to the resort’s scenic Broad Creek Mercantile and be sure to wish Jerome and all the cast of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort happy anniversary in the comments below. To learn more or book a stay, visit the resort’s website.
Congrats all! What makes this resort so special are the cast members who go out of their way to make your experience memorable. We knew after our first visit that we needed to make Hilton Head a home resort. The memories with B’lou and Shadow were the highlight of our trip. We look forward to seeing them soon!
Congrats on 25 years! We’ve been DVC members since 2008 and DHHIR is a family favorite. Jerome, affectionately known as “drone” to our family, has always shown such sincerity and compassion ever since we first met him as Duty Manager! Between Jerome, Mr. B’Lou Crabbe, & Shadow, I don’t know who we all look forward to seeing more during each visit! Thank you for making every experience special, DHHIR!! °o° Much love, The Ajello Family
Congratulations! We stayed here with our 4 year old granddaughter in early 2020. It was a wonderful experience. We’ll be back very soon.
We became DVC members in 1998 at OKW and purchased 25 Hilton Head points so we could have a stop over in our drive from NY to Florida. We quickly realized we needed 100 more points so this beautiful resort could be more than an overnight stay. We have stayed many times, and each trip has been memorable, and we are looking forward to visiting this July with our grandchildren to help celebrate 25 great years! Congratulations!
Congratulations, My family and I have stayed many times and always had a great time. The cast members are fantastic. There isn’t a time when we asked a cast member for a dining, recreation or local directions and one gentleman helped me refill my radiator when having car trouble. They did not disappoint in helping out. The entire cast should be commended for their outstanding friendliness, helpfulness and attention to detail. This is why we became DVC members in the first place we knew what the the Disney brand would provide.
Congratulations on 25 yrs. We became DVC members in October 2005 at Saratoga Springs but our first DVC stay was at Hilton Head in December 2005. We have several friends who live on the island and we love to visit with them but still have our own place to stay. We especially enjoyed the kayak trips. Thank you Disney HH for lots of good memories. Looking forward to our next visit hopefully this fall.
Congratulations on 25 years. DVC member since 1998. Have many memories of our family and friends vacationing at HH. Celebrated the Millennium at HH with the family in 2000
with Micky, fireworks and champagne. Just returned from a 6 night vacation that I booked, not even knowing it was on the 25th Anniversary on March 1. It was great fun. Thanks to Connie one of best Cast Members, who I always seem to see when I am there.
Welcome to the blog Ms. Heather!
Being on the opening team in 1995, was an unforgettable moment in my life! So glad to see the traditions and beauty are still going strong! It is the best kept secret in Disney! Be back soon!
Carole on March 1, 2021 at 5:30 pm
My family spent 3 nights at Hilton Head in 2012. We always wanted to go back. It is so beautiful and peaceful. Happy Birthday!
My family and I stayed here during our “Covid-cation” We weren’t quite ready to visit the parks but desperately needed some Disney magic. This resort and its CMs were just the ticket! We felt so happy (and safe!) our whole visit.
Congratulations on 25 years! My family and I have enjoyed the resort since it opened. We have raised our children here. We absolutely love it. When COVID came and masks were mandated my family and I were visiting during a very warm week. We were a bit grumpy with sweating and wearing masks. Jerome was quick to reassure us and make our stay special. Thank you Jerome and all cast members.
Thank you, Jerome, and all Cast Members at Hilton Head Island Resort! Congratulations on 25 years. It’s one of my favorite DVC resorts, and the Cast is what makes it such a magical and relaxing experience. See ya real soon!