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.