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Former Sonesta Beach president dies

A “consummate hotelier” and former president of the Bermuda Hotel Association has died.

David Boyd was 76.

Mr Boyd was president and manager of the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Southampton from 1989 to 1996, when he stepped down for health reasons.

Mr Boyd, who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee held prominent roles in Bermuda tourism and was a campaigner for Bermudians to run an industry that at the time still eclipsed international business as a pillar of the island’s economy.

John Harvey, also a former president of the BHA, said Mr Boyd had in addition led the Hotel Employers of Bermuda.

Mr Harvey added: “He was a great friend, a very astute hotelier and an aggressive and competent marketer.

“Before the Sonesta he was general manager at the Grotto Bay Hotel, which failed at its first attempt.

“David came in and turned it around completely, and it’s been very successful ever since.”

Mr Harvey said Mr Boyd at the Sonesta ran a monthly competition with John Jefferis, the managing director of the Elbow Beach Hotel, over who could secure the highest occupancy.

Mr Harvey added: “They went after this with a lot of intensity, and they would come in sometimes with 100 per cent occupancy back in those wonderful days.

“He was very timely for Bermuda, in the sense that he was a younger hotelier.”

Mr Harvey said Mr Boyd “had a tremendous focus for taking care of guests, beyond just making sure they had clean towels – he wanted his guests to be happy”.

“In David’s view, if the guests were smiling, they would come back, and that was absolutely right.”

The Sonesta closed in 2003 for renovations after damage from Hurricane Fabian.

The property later became the Wyndham Bermuda Resort and Spa, which closed in 2006.

JP Martens, the general manager at Grotto Bay, said there were still long-term staff at the Hamilton Parish resort who remembered Mr Boyd.

Mr Martens said: “He was very respected and loved by those who worked with him.

“He was a great Bermuda supporters and a driver of the industry. His contributions were greatly appreciated.”

Dennis Tucker, another former Sonesta president, called Mr Boyd “the consummate hotelier with a great sense of humour and wit who very much enjoyed what he did”.

Mr Tucker added: “I always felt managing a hotel is very much like running a small city and there is always a problem or challenge which needed to be dealt with, which he did with professionalism and his normal sense of humour.

“He was never hesitant in sharing his wisdom or experience with others and was always there to help with career development and guidance to his co-workers.”

Mr Tucker said he had grown close to Mr Boyd and his wife, Susan, and offered his condolences to the family.

The couple enjoyed entertaining guests together, and Mr Boyd was known for his good relations with his staff.

Charles Webbe, a former public relations manager for what was then the Department of Tourism, said Mr Boyd “championed the idea of Bermudians working in the hotel industry”.

He said: “He was always interested in seeing young Bermudians move up.

“He was a relaxed fellow, jovial, businesslike but not in any strong way – he knew how to get the best from people. He was a team player.”

Mr Boyd also managed the historic Sagamore Resort, a hotel dating back to the 19th century, on the shores of Lake George in New York.

He played a lead role in the Sagamore’s 1983 reopening, and managed it again in the early 2000s.

David Dodwell, the owner of The Reefs in Southampton, said he had visited Mr Boyd in his second term at the Sagamore and was struck by how “he managed that hotel just as he managed here”.

Mr Dodwell added: “He was a people’s hotelier, out at the front of the house and also back of house, behind the scenes. He got close to the community.

“Not all non-Bermudian hoteliers who worked here got out and about. David knew people and moved in the community.”

Mr Boyd moved to South Carolina after he retired, but remained an industry consultant.

He died this month in the city of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Mr Boyd is survived by his wife and daughters Melanie and Jennifer.

David Miller Boyd, a former head of the Sonesta Beach Hotel, was born on February 7, 1944. He died on January 8, 2021. Mr Boyd was 76.

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Published January 22, 2021 at 9:03 am (Updated January 22, 2021 at 9:03 am)

Former Sonesta Beach president dies

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