VIRGIN GORDA, British Virgin Islands -- Little Dix Bay's most effective sales and marketing tool isn't a Web site or a new package or a slick brochure or even a travel agent promotion.

It's Grace Waters, director of reservations for the luxury resort, a fixture at Little Dix for 40 years and the first person many repeat guests look for upon their arrival.

When the resort opened in January 1964, Waters was at the reservations desk, having given up four years of teaching on the island where she was born and brought up.

"I started out as a teacher making $20 a month, and when I left my salary was $52.50. I always thought I would teach forever, but I knew Little Dix was opening and I knew how to type and take shorthand, so I applied," Waters said.

The curving, reef-protected beach at Little Dix on Virgin Gorda is secluded and private. Guest units overlook the beach. In 1964, Little Dix had 36 rooms, and Waters was handwriting reservations and tracking them on a homemade chart.

Today the Rosewood Hotels' resort has 100 rooms, including two villas with three more soon to open. Waters supervises a res staff of four agents, and, of course, "everything is computerized," she said.

During her tenure, Waters has seen, greeted and met many of the rich and famous, including Queen Elizabeth II, who visited in 1966 and "had tea in one of our guest rooms," Waters said. "I've met a few presidents and film stars and known generations of our guests."

These are the guests who stream regularly into her office during their stay and who communicate with her when they return home. They include the couple who recently made their 80th visit to Little Dix, having come twice a year for 40 years.

Waters said that "many of my great friends are travel agents."

"They visit when they are here on cruises or on fam trips," she said. "I see them when we do sales calls in the U.S."

The management of Little Dix hosted travel agent dinners in New York recently to honor Waters' years of service.

David Flack, general manager, described Waters as "an ambassador for Little Dix and the entire Caribbean. She is a valuable member of our sales team."

She works six days a week and can't imagine retiring. "I'll give it another five years and see how it goes," she said.

Plenty of Caribbean resorts have high repeat-guest statistics, so what is it about Little Dix that keeps those guests returning year after year?

Waters knows. "Our guests know there is something special here. Little Dix has evolved and adapted to the expectations of today's upscale traveler."

She cited the beachside villas, the Cliffside spa, room amenities such as Bose stereos and wi-fi connections, the air taxi service between St. Thomas and Virgin Gorda and the room service feature added last month. Room decor will be redone this summer.

Little Dix also has 25 DVD players and a library of 350 movies that guests can borrow.

"We always want to keep the tradition and feeling as [founder] Laurence Rockefeller envisioned it," Waters said, "and that does not include big TV monitors in the rooms."

The resort also added a small computer center at the request of guests.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

Package deals

• Little Dix daily summer rates to Nov. 13 range from $295 per room, single or double, in an oceanview room to $900 in a one-bedroom suite. Villa rates are higher.

• Bed and Breakfast program starts at $325 per night, single or double, with breakfast.

• Children are welcome. From June 1 to Nov. 13, a second bedroom for those under age 16 is 50% of the daily rate. The resort's Children's Grove has supervised activities for children ages 3 to 12 for a nominal charge.

• A five-night package for two is priced from $2,900 and includes transfers, breakfast, three dinners, two massages and a beach picnic.

• Spa, romance and an Island Hopper combination program with Little Dix and Caneel Bay on St. John also are offered. For more details, visit www.littledixbay.com.

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