HAMILTON, Bermuda — Labour Minister Jason Hayward says an initiative to boost the number of Bermudians employed in the hotel industry will soon be launched, even though a second hotel has announced it will not reopen until next year because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Hayward said he wanted to increase Bermudian representation in the sector by 6.5 per cent to 80 per cent and also hoped to boost the number of Bermudians in management roles in hotels.
His comments followed a tripartite summit involving the government, the hotel industry and trade unions.
“The overall goal of the meeting was to engage in an open dialogue between stakeholders to reach mutually beneficial outcomes that will ensure job security and allow hoteliers to remain open,” he said, adding that the meeting discussed policies, legislation and other factors that affected the hotel industry in the wake of the economic and human havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collective bargaining agreements, redundancy and layoffs, work permits, repatriation of staff, hotel redevelopment, unemployment benefits and training and development programmes were all on the agenda.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted Bermuda’s economy and our hotel industry has sustained substantial losses. With the gradual reopening of the country, it is critical that urgent actions are taken to manage the future of the industry and mitigate any further losses.
“We are well aware that a large number of individuals in Bermuda rely on the hotel industry to put food on the table, make their rent or mortgage payments, send their children to school, and put clothes on their backs,” Hayward said, adding “only through each and every one of our hotel industry stakeholders working together, do we stand the best chance of success”.
The Elbow Beach Bermuda Resort and Spa is to remain closed through the end of the year, the hotel’s general manager, Jacky DiMeglio confirmed Monday.
DiMeglio said he would make no further comment. Previously, the waterfront property in Paget parish had announced a temporary closure until September 1 owing to the impact of the pandemic.
Last month, owners of the Rosedon, a boutique hotel on the outskirts of Hamilton, said the property would remain closed until 2021.
The chief executive of the Bermuda Hotel Association, Stephen Todd,, said “unfortunately, the pandemic has had a significant impact on our industry.
“The ability of any property to remain open is dependent on attracting demand through future hotel guest bookings. That’s the key consideration. You need to generate projected occupancy by future guests to enable any property to restore normal operations, and the future employment of hotel workers,” he added.
The majority of Bermuda’s hotel workers have been laid off since the pandemic began to affect the island’s tourism industry in March.
Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson has said government has already paid out US$43 million to 10,000 laid-off workers — including 2,000 expatriates — in a benefits package. The scheme was initially for 12 weeks but later extended to 16 weeks. It ends soon and expatriates, who are now able to leave the island, have been told they will no longer be able to make further claims.
Todd said employment was at the forefront of his organisation’s concerns and that he hoped the government would consider an further extension of the timeframe for emergency unemployment benefits to hotel workers, who could be out of work for longer.
“We believe that financial assistance will be required well beyond the extension of 16 weeks. We are concerned that once that is up, financial hardship will still be evident for a significant number of individuals,” Todd added.
The airport was closed to all commercial air traffic on March 20 as a result of the pandemic before reopening on July 1. Only three carriers are flying to the island this month. Air Canada is providing weekly service from Toronto, Delta Air Lines is flying daily from Atlanta, while British Airways starts twice-weekly flights from London on Friday.
The Ministry of Health reported on Monday that the latest batch of 498 COVID-19test results were all clear. Bermuda has had 150 total confirmed positive cases, including nine deaths. A total of 137 people have recovered. More than 14,000 tests have been carried out.