Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Political leaders clash over closure of hotel

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 12:07 AM


Premier David Burt and Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier have engaged in a war of words after the island’s largest hotel confirmed it is closing for 18 months for renovations, putting hundreds of Bermudians out of work.

The 18-month closure of the 593-room Fairmont Southampton resort for renovations – announced eight days before a snap general election, would mean about 750 lay-offs, roughly 500 of them Bermudian, and cause “significant hardship for many”, General Manager Kiaran MacDonald confirmed on Wednesday.

The mass lay-off is thought to be the biggest redundancy in Bermuda.

The move, effective October 23, takes out of commission 25 per cent of Bermuda’s total hotel guest rooms, responsible for up to 30 per cent of air visitors to the island.

Stephen Todd, chief executive of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said the closure “significantly reduces our overall inventory, going into 2021 and beyond”.

He acknowledged the move gave other hotels a chance to increase overall occupancy, but called it “a sobering moment for many of our industry colleagues – it’s not something any of us like to see”.

The ruling Progressive Labour Party’s election platform, announced on Tuesday night, included a commitment to assist in the redevelopment of the hotel.

The premier said on Wednesday the redevelopment showed “great confidence in Bermuda and the next phase of our tourism”.

Burt, who also holds the tourism portfolio, added: “Today’s announcement is one that will signal to investors and our valued tourism stakeholders that Bermuda is determined to emerge stronger following this pandemic.

“We now have the prospect of a new addition to our tourism product, the opportunity for jobs in the construction phase and new opportunities for Bermudian tourism professionals in another signature hotel.”