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ST. THOMAS - Jean-Paul Nel is no stranger to world traveling, which may explain why he has bounced around from one top position to another within the Marriott hotel chain.

Nel, who arrived on-island just four days ago, is the new general manager of the Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Resort on St. Thomas.

A reception attended by about 60 community leaders welcomed Nel to his new position Thursday evening at the resort he now supervises.

"We're delighted to welcome him and certainly are looking forward to him enjoying the island and being with us for a long, long time," said Mary Gleason, CEO of Hospitality Consulting Services on St. Thomas.

For the last 15 years, Nel was the vice president for Marriott's northern United Kingdom region. Prior to that, he also served as the vice president of operations for the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Middle East and Africa.

"Even in England, the cabbies couldn't figure out my accent," Nel said, noting that he has accumulated a mixed accent from all the places he has lived in his career.

He was born in Spain and also has lived in Latin America and Africa - though he considers himself a Boston man. Still, he is no stranger to the Caribbean.

In 1995, he helped reopen the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He said he finds the region beautiful and culturally rich.

"I look forward to integrating myself in the local community," Nel said.

In his four days here so far, Nel has walked around the hotel each morning, greeting the staff, from the cooks to the waiters to the receptionists.

"As Mr. Marriott used to say, 'You take care of your associates, your associates will take care of the guests,'" Nel said.

Nel said his vision of the Marriott is not far from where the resort is now, although renovations are ongoing. Nel also said he hopes to increase the company's presence and partnership with local businesses, nonprofits and government entities.

"We are certain that under his guidance, Frenchman's Reef will further leverage its positioning as a leader in the hotel industry and the Caribbean," said Andrew Houghton, vice-president for the Marriott's numerous Caribbean hotels.

The resort already is one of the premier spots in the Caribbean, and in Latin America, Nel said. He did not know the revenue of the resort Thursday evening, he said, though he said he hoped to increase it beyond what it was already.

Nel is replacing Jose Gonzalez Espinosa, who started in 2008 and has taken another managerial position with Marriott in Venezuela.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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