Burt pledges Gencom will train Bermudians
The Premier last night moved to assure the public that the Fairmont Southampton’s new business model will be successful because of a commitment to “continued reinvestment”.
David Burt was speaking at a town hall meeting held at Warwick Camp about the hotel. He was joined by Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union and Vance Campbell, the Minister of Tourism.
One member of the audience questioned whether Gencom had a business plan that would guarantee long term success and asked what differentiated its model from previous ones.
Mr Burt said: “The old Fairmont Southampton property was a very successful business insofar as the amount of revenue it was bringing in.
“We are seeing the expansion of the convention space, an expansion of the beach space and an expansion of the entertainment spaces to support more group business which is vital for the off season. That is a critical and important part.”
Mr Furbert said that the previous hotel was successful in that it never operated at a loss despite shrinking profit margins.
He said the expansion of the tourist season, perhaps up to nine months of the year, would also help to attract more Bermudians into the profession as it there would be better job security.
Mr Campbell said the goal was to increase visitor numbers in the off season by 56 per cent adding: “There is a concerted effort in train“.
Many audience members sought assurances that there will be employment and training opportunities for Bermudians.
Mr Campbell reiterated that developers have a requirement to hire 70 per cent Bermudians in order to be eligible for concessions and that managerial training for Bermudians was also a requirement for concession eligibility.
He said historically Bermudians were not getting hired into managerial positions but added “there is a commitment to train at all levels”.
A member of the standing room only audience questioned whether the concessions being extended to the Fairmont Southampton would be provided to other hotels and tourist-related businesses which have suffered financially during the pandemic.
Mr Campbell stressed "the Tourism Investment Act is not just for rich overseas investors“ and that it will also benefit the redevelopment of other hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions.
“We are looking to bring amendments to the Tourism Investment Act that will broaden the type of relief that is available, so that more local individuals can have the opportunity to take advantage of the concessions.”
Mr Campbell said the government would deliver on the promise by the next parliamentary session.
Mr Burt said “a constant spate of large projects” were needed to help buoy the construction industry.
Mr Furbert said once shovels were in the ground, if a double shift model were adopted, the project could be completed within 12 months.
Mr Burt explained that the government’s tax guarantee of $75m would be paid off by the value of the tax concessions. He said: “That money doesn’t go into the pockets of the developers, it goes to repay the loan.
“It is going to repay the loan that has been guaranteed by taxpayers to ensure we get this project started.”
One man asked whether small contractors who were not up to date with their payroll tax payments would be barred from working on the hotel, to which the Premier responded: “The answer to that question is ‘no’.”
The Premier quipped: “We want to make sure you earn money so you can pay it back.”