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Michael Skinner is the new assistant director of rooms at Hamilton Princess

Michael Skinner, the new assistant director of rooms at the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club (Photograph supplied)

After hotel school, Bermudian Michael Skinner always intended to come back to the island to work, but opportunities abroad kept presenting themselves.

“I thought I would probably work in hotels overseas for two to five years,” he said.

Seventeen years later, he is finally back on home soil as the assistant director of rooms at the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club in Pembroke.

“I now oversee the front office, front desk, concierge, bell and housekeeping,” the 37-year-old said. “I also oversee the hotel’s in-house linen and their Fairmont Gold programme, their boutique hotel within the hotel.”

He was previously front desk manager at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. His transition to Bermuda took a matter of days.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind,” Mr Skinner said. “It has been an incredible onboarding experience here at the hotel. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming.”

A few times he has found himself wandering the hotel, a little lost. Staff have immediately jumped in to help put him back on course.

“They go out of their way to make sure I am heading in the right direction,” Mr Skinner laughed.

He fell in love with hospitality at the age of 12 when he took tennis lessons with Dennis Lambert at the Elbow Beach Hotel in Paget. While on the tennis court, he often jumped in to hit a few balls with hotel guests.

“I loved the interaction with visitors,” he said.

While studying hospitality at the London Hotel School in London, England, he did a paid internship at the Cavendish London Hotel.

The hotel on Jermyn Street in London was owned by twins David and Frederick Barclay, who also had The Ritz.

“It was a great independent hotel to work for because they very much believed in promoting from within,” Mr Skinner said. “A year would come to an end, I’d wonder what I should do next, and another opportunity would arise at that hotel. I was able to make my way up the ranks to reservations and events manager.”

From there he jumped to the five-star Rosewood London, which was just opening when he went there in May 2013.

“Hoteliers always want to be involved in the opening of a hotel because it is such a great experience,” he said.

He described the opening as “organised chaos”.

“You have all your plans laid out, and then it opens and operations don’t always function the way you think they will in theory,” he said. “It was great to be a part of that.”

He was working for the Fairmont Empress in Canada when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“We closed the hotels out there,” he said. “We had to lay off everyone. When we started recalling staff, a lot of people were not ready to come back. They were still quite nervous about the pandemic, which is absolutely fair.”

He said a lot of people found jobs in other industries that offered steadier hours and a greater sense of job security.

“I never thought of leaving the industry myself,” he said. “I always knew there would be a hospitality industry, particularly in Bermuda.”

When the hotel did reopen, he was promoted to director of housekeeping. During this period there were ever-changing social distancing rules to contend with.

“One day we would be selling alcohol and the next day would be New Year’s Eve and the Canadian officials would say no alcohol past 8pm,” he said. “We would have to rotate and switch and reach out to all our guests.”

In 2012, he took part in the Master Innholders Diploma programme, a hospitality management training course in the United Kingdom.

As part of the programme, he would be sent to a new hotel property around Britain, every month.

“There would be an intensive leadership training course, and then we would get to spend the evening dining with the general manager of the hotel,” he said. “They would give a speech about their experience in the industry and what they have done.”

One hotel manager told him hospitality is a “people’s business”.

“It is not just about the guests coming in, but also the people who work at the hotel,” he said. “If you focus on looking after your team, everything else should fall into place.”

He took those words to heart and tries to live by them now.

His dream is to one day be a hotel general manager.

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Published November 15, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated November 16, 2022 at 8:07 am)

Michael Skinner is the new assistant director of rooms at Hamilton Princess

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