Tourism industry worried about rollover Armageddon

The potential loss of significant numbers of workers in
October is on the tourism industry’s minds.

Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports said that to date a lot of
the focus on the issue had been its effects on the financial industry.

“The issue is equally strong within tourism; finding quality
people to fill positions is always priority and then when you do get those
people having to replace them, particularly en masse, really is going to impact
on the customer service,” he said.

“Customer service is at the heart of our industry and
striving for that is the single thing everyone agrees on whether Department of
Tourism, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, hotels, restaurants, watersports –
everybody.”

There is a significant investment into training staff, he
added, which is vital in a complex industry such as tourism, which involves
contact with visitors from multiple backgrounds.

“Taking care of visitors’ desires and whims is very
fine-tuned. When you have got people up to standard and when they understand
the island well it is a shame that at that point we have to let them go again
[due to rollover.]”

Mr. McDowall said that ideally there would be a ‘grandfather
clause’ which would assist with replenishing staff numbers with the right
people.

“It takes significant time to get a work permit approved and
to get people down here. If you don’t receive sufficient advance notice to
identify staff you are going to lose that is a big issue.

“It takes a good six months to get the right people in so if
there was a bit of leniency in the time frame that would be required. Generally
the ones leaving are your senior staff, involved in training and they know the
ins and outs. These are the people you use to pass on their experience as the
new greenhorns get to know the intricacies of the tourism industry.” He added
that his personal view was that the rollover was detrimental.

“We certainly have to ensure our Caymanian population has
the opportunity to work within the industry and to move up through it but there
are just so many positions.

“We simply do not have the human resources to fill all those
positions [on island] and if you take away people that repeat guests have got
used to and look forward to coming down and affiliating with that does not do
your product any good.”

Janette Goodman at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman added that
the hotel has been offering training to outgoing staff ‘for the past couple of
years’ to assist with their preparation.

“That comprised things like resume and interviewing skills,
surfing job sites and so on so that they can start thinking about planning
their futures. For the seven year rollover, 2012 and 2013 were the big years
anyway based on the year we opened, 2005.

“Our food and beverage team has put together a very robust
training series… we have been doing these things to provide our ladies and
gentlemen with the opportunity to supplement those skills. If they had a place
they were interested in transferring to [at another location within the
Ritz-Carlton chain] we helped them with that.”

The fact remains that there is a potential ‘brain drain’ in
the tourism industry, she added. “How do we take everything from someone who
has been here for five or more years, who are favourite of repeat guests? We
are always concerned about losing talented staff and being able to supplement a
new staff member with a seasoned professional that can pass on their knowledge.

“The biggest concern we have been facing the last year is
that our guests and our owners have been very aware that people will be
departing. Our business is all about personal relationship-building. You can
pass on knowledge but not the friendship you have created and that is huge. Our
guests are now expressing that concern.” The potential loss of significant numbers of
workers in October is on the tourism industry’s minds.

Rod McDowall of Red Sail Sports said that to date a lot of
the focus on the issue had been its effects on the financial industry.

“The issue is equally strong within tourism; finding quality
people to fill positions is always priority and then when you do get those
people having to replace them, particularly en masse, really is going to impact
on the customer service,” he said.

“Customer service is at the heart of our industry and
striving for that is the single thing everyone agrees on whether Department of
Tourism, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, hotels, restaurants, watersports –
everybody.”

There is a significant investment into training staff, he
added, which is vital in a complex industry such as tourism, which involves
contact with visitors from multiple backgrounds.

“Taking care of visitors’ desires and whims is very
fine-tuned. When you have got people up to standard and when they understand
the island well it is a shame that at that point we have to let them go again
[due to rollover.]”

Mr. McDowall said that ideally there would be a ‘grandfather
clause’ which would assist with replenishing staff numbers with the right
people.

“It takes significant time to get a work permit approved and
to get people down here. If you don’t receive sufficient advance notice to
identify staff you are going to lose that is a big issue.

“It takes a good six months to get the right people in so if
there was a bit of leniency in the time frame that would be required. Generally
the ones leaving are your senior staff, involved in training and they know the
ins and outs. These are the people you use to pass on their experience as the
new greenhorns get to know the intricacies of the tourism industry.” He added
that his personal view was that the rollover was detrimental.

“We certainly have to ensure our Caymanian population has
the opportunity to work within the industry and to move up through it but there
are just so many positions.

“We simply do not have the human resources to fill all those
positions [on island] and if you take away people that repeat guests have got
used to and look forward to coming down and affiliating with that does not do
your product any good.”

Janette Goodman at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman added that
the hotel has been offering training to outgoing staff ‘for the past couple of
years’ to assist with their preparation.

“That comprised things like resume and interviewing skills,
surfing job sites and so on so that they can start thinking about planning
their futures. For the seven year rollover, 2012 and 2013 were the big years
anyway based on the year we opened, 2005.

“Our food and beverage team has put together a very robust
training series… we have been doing these things to provide our ladies and
gentlemen with the opportunity to supplement those skills. If they had a place
they were interested in transferring to [at another location within the
Ritz-Carlton chain] we helped them with that.”

The fact remains that there is a potential ‘brain drain’ in
the tourism industry, she added. “How do we take everything from someone who
has been here for five or more years, who are favourite of repeat guests? We
are always concerned about losing talented staff and being able to supplement a
new staff member with a seasoned professional that can pass on their knowledge.

“The biggest concern we have been facing the last year is
that our guests and our owners have been very aware that people will be
departing. Our business is all about personal relationship-building. You can
pass on knowledge but not the friendship you have created and that is huge. Our
guests are now expressing that concern.”

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