Dockyard businesses dig in to survive
This year, Dockyard entrepreneur Carole Holding bought more stock than usual. Last year was a pretty good year for the watercolour artist, and she was ready for 2020 to be even better.
Then, just as the new tourism season was about to launch, the Covid-19 epidemic struck. Ports were closed and then came lockdown, meaning almost every business in Bermuda had to close.
For Dockyard businesses, whose income depends heavily on cruise ship visitors and other tourists, the impact has been hard.
“We had all our stock in ready for April,” Ms Holding said. “The concern is our cashflow.”
She accepted the lockdown as a necessary action.
“I believe Premier David Burt and the Government have done a fantastic job,” she said. “He gets full marks. He has saved Bermuda a lot of heartache.”
But the halt in global travel has been devastating. Ms Holding has taken a double hit, because she also runs a small bed and breakfast out of her home on Harbour Road in Warwick.
She had more than 25 cancellations for March and April.
Her shop in Dockyard is closed, but she is still paying full health insurance for two staff members.
“Between the bed and breakfast and my shop, we've lost thousands of dollars,” Ms Holding said. “It is very stressful. I go out in my garden to relax.”
But she believes that when Bermuda reopens in a changed tourism market, the island will have some plusses behind it.
Basing her thoughts largely on a Trip Advisor webinar she saw recently, she thought the first visitors to return would be wealthier people.
“Other people won't have the money to travel,” she said.
She theorised that when people do get back on aeroplanes, destinations close to the United States, like Bermuda, will be attractive.
“After being inside for so long, people will want to do things outdoors,” she said. “They will be interested in hiking. I think we should really start promoting the Bermuda Railway Trail.”
Ms Holding said all Dockyard businesses are in the same “pickle” as herself.
Clara Rodriguez opened Modern Lifestyle in Dockyard a year ago, selling hand-crocheted bags and other products.
She'd only just paid off her start-up costs when the Covid-19 epidemic happened.
“Now I'll have to take out another loan,” she said. “It's tough. We took no salary for the first year to build up our float now it looks like no salary for year two as well.”
Ms Rodriguez has decided to write off 2020 completely and use the time to improve the store and facilities for the next season.
Jorg Rudolf, who runs the Dockyard Pastry Shop, said as hard as the lockdown is on businesses in Bermuda, he thinks the lockdown should remain in place for a little longer. He was speaking before the Government last night announced an extension of the shelter in place period to May 2. He has family in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, some of whom have contracted Covid-19.
“Looking at how things have played out in Europe, the Government is doing the right thing,” he said. “We should be closed for as long as it takes to get rid of Covid-19.”
Pottery artist Jon Faulkner, of the Jon Faulkner Gallery, said about 90 per cent of his business comes from tourism.
“Hopefully, at some point later, we will get to open again and maybe salvage some of this season,” he said.
But he wasn't counting on it. In the meantime, he plans to finish remodelling his gallery.
“I just want to invest my time and hopefully when we do open up, we will have a better shop,” he said.
Mr Faulkner said anyone who has anything to do with tourism will be badly impacted by the global shutdown.
He is trying to stay positive.
“You have to,” he said. “This thing won't last for ever. My intention, when we do open up again, is to have everything finished so we will be in a good condition.”
He said the silver lining to the lockdown is that he has more time to work on his art.
“There are a lot of things I will get into that will benefit my business for years to come,” he said, “as long as we get business back.”
Andrew Dias, general manager of the West End Development Corporation, said Dockyard is being impacted by the shutdown, but no more so than other businesses in Bermuda.
“It isn't just Dockyard,” Mr Dias said. “Depending on how we reopen, we will have to determine what the medium to longer-term effects are on any tourist-based business.”