Resort’s new owner warns tourism at ‛critical juncture’
The new owner of Cambridge Beaches said yesterday he planned to plough millions of dollars into the resort over the next few years.
But, despite his faith in the long-term future of tourism, Phil Hospod warned that hospitality businesses would struggle to survive if visitor numbers did not pick up during the traditional high season.
He added that government-imposed safety regulations risked driving potential visitors to other destinations.
Mr Hospod, speaking in an exclusive interview with The Royal Gazette, said there needed to be “an organised and concerted effort to save the season” this summer.
But he added: “We’re at a pretty critical juncture. It’s a seasonal business and the majority of the business comes in two or three months and, for those months, people need to be booking their vacations today.
“They’re either choosing Bermuda or they’re choosing other destinations and I’m pretty worried whether or not we will have a season this year that allows the industry to survive.
“Basically everyone’s been crippled due to the pandemic and everyone is really backed into a corner and really struggling.”
Mr Hospod said that the recent test requirements and stricter regulations imposed by the Government was driving potential visitors elsewhere.
He added: “Just mass cancellations – people just cancelled all their trips.
“It’s really tough because morale is already low – it’s been a challenge for the last 14 months with people struggling through this and the hope was that this summer, while not a full return to normalcy, at least we’d be making steps towards that.
Mr Hospod said: “American-vaccinated travellers are choosing their summer destinations right now and are not picking Bermuda due to all the additional testing requirements and initial quarantine rules.
“We have seen a significant decrease in reservations and an increase in cancellations following the release of the new guidelines.
“Simply put, our guests are choosing destinations that make it easier for vaccinated travellers.
“If we do not make Bermuda more welcoming for immunised travellers in short order, the entire tourism industry – the largest non-government employer in Bermuda – will lose the summer season and face a hard winter.
“We want Bermuda to be both safe and welcoming.”
Mr Hospod added: “If there isn’t a season this year I think you will see even more job losses and more closures.
“I think a lot of the momentum that were trying to build back may evaporate.
“That’s something I’m nervous about and I hope that there’s an organised and concerted effort to save the season.”
He was speaking after his New York-based company Dovetail took over the historic Sandys resort last month.
He insisted that his company was in Bermuda for the long term and a massive refurbishment programme would be carried out.
Mr Hospod said that a refurbishment programme would cover every aspect of Cambridge Beaches.
He added: “We’re going to follow through on a comprehensive refresh on all areas – the guest rooms, all of the furniture, the design, the fixtures – the type of experience that the modern traveller is expecting from a luxury destination which Cambridge Beaches is.
“We want to do that in all the guest rooms and all the public areas.”
He said that the resort’s restaurants would also get a makeover.
Ms Hospod added: “We’re committed to the property for the long term – we’re fully capitalised and ready to go.
“There are still a fair amount of scenarios in terms of the extent of the renovations and so it’s hard to pin down an actual number, but it’s going to be substantial.
“It’s going to be in the millions, the high millions, the tens of millions – in terms of what were actually going to put into the property.”
Mr Hospod said he fell in love with the island on his first visit in 2016.
He added: “I don’t think there are a lot of places in the world that are as special as Bermuda.
“In terms of the natural beauty, in terms of the mix of cultures, the history, the convenience to such large destinations – this is truly a remarkable destination and I think if you live here you can start to forget that or maybe take it for granted.”
Mr Hospod said: “Bermuda is very safe, but I’m not sure how welcoming it’s being at the moment.
“I think we have to be able to do both if we’re going to rebuild the business.”