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Hotelier and retailer Gilbert dies, aged 68

Robin Gilbert

Hotelier and retailer Robin Gilbert, who in 1967 became one of the first graduates of the Bermuda Hotel School, has died at the age of 68.

Along with his wife, Susan, Mr Gilbert became a familiar face to many through the family business for more than 40 years, the clothes store Pirates Port.

But he was famed for his 50-year hospitality career, starting out in the Bermudiana Hotel in the 1960s.

Mr Gilbert was just 26 when he became general manager of the Jadini Beach Hotel on the south coast of Kenya after two years on a management development programme in three major London hotels.

He later returned home to work at Cambridge Beaches and subsequently bought the Palmetto Bay Hotel on Harrington Sound.

After the birth of their children Jessica and Alexander, the couple focused on their retail business.

Mr Gilbert returned to the hospitality industry in 2004, becoming the general manager at Coco Reef the following year. He also worked at 9 Beaches and The Reefs.

Jessica Cassidy recalled her father as a dedicated “people person” who dived into hotel work at the age of 16.

“That was his life — he just made everyone feel good, and he loved being around people, especially tourists,” she said.

“He was a huge family guy who did absolutely everything for me, my brother and our mother.”

Even as tourism declined from its heyday as the mainstay of the Bermudian economy, Mr Gilbert remained confident in the island as a destination.

“There is no question that Bermuda is a beautiful product,” he told this newspaper in 2005 — but added that local hotels needed to focus on “fantastic service that exceeds the expectations of our guests”.

Mr Gilbert later took the helm as general manager at 9 Beaches before returning to his retail roots.

Ms Cassidy described him as “hardly ever in a bad mood and he treated people with respect”.

“We have lived a very loved life because of him,” she said.