VIP award winner Gilbert loves her work so much, ‘it’s not really a job’
The work may be hard and the hours may be long, but the hospitality industry is the only place for her, Betty-Jean Gilbert insists.
She was recently presented with the Best of the Best Award by the Visitor Industry Partnership, recognised for her years of outstanding hospitality.
The Fairmont Southampton banquet captain said yesterday: “I tell my family that when I finish this, when I retire, I will be a Pink Lady down at [King Edward VII Memorial Hospital] serving someone.
“When you come to work and you enjoy what you are doing, it’s not a job.”
Ms Gilbert took her first steps toward the hotel industry more than 30 years ago, based on the advice of high school principal Mansfield Brock.
“When I finished high school I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. [Mr Brock], who was my principal at Sandys Secondary, suggested I try [the] hotel college, and he got me in.
“I went into the college and I loved it right from the beginning.”
She was hired at Glencoe guest house upon graduating. Over the course of 17 years she rose to the rank of senior maître d’.
Ms Gilbert joined the Fairmont after Glencoe closed, working in the pool area before she was invited to try her hand in the Banquet Department.
“I was hesitant at first,” she said. “I was the first woman in the banquet area, but once I came in I loved it. It’s a tough job, but I enjoy what I do.”
She and her team often work 14- or 15-hour days between breakfast, lunch and dinner, going home at midnight only to return to work for 5am.
“It’s definitely a very busy, busy area. It’s a lot of work that we are doing,” she said. “Sometimes mornings, when I have to make 5am, I wake up and say ‘Lord, help me get out of this bed’, but I enjoy it.”
One of the highlights of her year is Cup Match when she works at the hospitality tent at the annual cricket competition.
“It’s my favourite thing to do,” she said. “Both days of Cup Match are my days off, but I have worked Cup Matches all my life.
“It’s an all-day affair. Me and my partner Paul serve watermelon, rum swizzle, dark ‘n’ stormies and yellow birds all day, and the visitors love it. Some come every year. They return just because of the hospitality tent and I look forward to it every year.”
Another highlight is introducing young people to the hospitality industry, she said.
“That’s the biggest thing I want to do, to pass it on to someone else,” she said. “At one point we only had one Bermudian waiter at the hotel but lately we have had a lot more who have started. That’s very encouraging.”
She praised her guest worker colleagues for their hard work but she said having more young Bermudians in the industry would help tourism bounce back.
“I think that as more Bermudians come into the industry things will improve,” she said. “People want that common touch, but the migrant workers in our hotel do a fabulous job also.”
Anyone considering joining the industry “definitely has to be committed”, she said.
“You have to be serous about this industry because it is a big commitment. It is definitely a big commitment.
“You are going to be working holidays; the season has gotten shorter so sometimes you have to make the money when you can, but once you come in you are going to love it.”
Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert was among the many to congratulate Betty-Jean Gilbert on winning the top VIP Excellence Award.
The entire Progressive Labour Party supported her efforts, he said.
“We are certainly pleased to extend our congratulations to Betty-Jean on this accomplishment.
“She represents all that is positive and uplifting about the hospitality industry and we commend her on her success.”
Opposition Leader Marc Bean also praised the Fairmont Southampton worker and the 17 other winners at Saturday’s VIP Excellence Awards.
“We of the Progressive Labour Party firmly support the hospitality industry as one of our economic pillars,” the PLP leader said.
“With mentors and role models like the individuals that were acknowledged on Saturday night, we can see that we are on the right track.”
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service