By Lindsey Turnbull
With Cayman’s tourism industry currently in limbo having received no hint from Government of a border opening timetable, the success of any kind of a reopening later in the year will crucially depend on whether there are enough people to work within the industry. As a result, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is attempting to gauge interest among the local populace with a strenuous recruitment drive.
General Manager Marc Langevin said for them, with the resort currently closed for refurbishment, it was “all about the target of opening in November”, so their focus was to look to hire as many Caymanians as possible in anticipation of a possible opening then. It was particularly important for the resort to employ locally given the severe restrictions the pandemic has created in bringing on board staff from overseas.
“Assuming a full reopening in November, there will be a need of about 450 employees,” he confirmed. “It is very clear that we will not be finding so many people on the island with the qualification [necessary], so what we are trying to do early on is to try and find out how many Caymanians are interested, and from that point we will go backwards.”
Taking into consideration the global shortage of hospitality workers whose livelihoods came to an abrupt end with the pandemic lockdowns, in their respective countries, Mr Langevin said it was already too late to recruit overseas for a November opening, when taking into consideration the length of time needed to get work permit applications and travel arrangements in place.
“Every stage of the normal recruitment process is behind,” he confirmed
Their aggressive local recruitment campaign was born out of a deep necessity to get the resort ready to be able to welcome visitors either at the end of this year or early next year. Referring to the desperate need for staff, he admitted:
“We can see the crisis that is coming ahead; however we have the benefit of time.”
He was pleased that 50 or so candidates had shown up for interviews on Tuesday as the said it was not a great value proposition for them to accept a job now which might not be starting until November. More interviewees were expected in the days ahead as well, he confirmed.
The recruitment process was a multi-phased event, whereby prospective employees had already completed application processes including an online assessment. Those who were at the resort had been invited for a formal interview.
“At the end of the day, we are looking at the character of the individual during the interview,” he confirmed. “It’s about the person explaining themselves to see if they are a fit for our organisation.”
Skill development was also an important area of focus for the applicants.
Breaking what he termed the "myth" that Caymanians could not make a decent living working in the hospitality sector, Mr Langevin said that an entry-level position at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman was still a decent wage when gratuities were included. To further dispel the myth that banks would not take into consideration gratuities when someone wanted a mortgage, for example, he confirmed that he had contacted Royal Bank of Canada and they would recognise regular payments of gratuities into an account when considering mortgage applications.
“Those are myths that keep on being repeated without validation,” he stated. “The truth is Government can check on those [referring to salary and wage information].”
Mr Langevin said it was important to dispel those myths because they were preventing local people from joining the industry. Most importantly, the industry allowed people to grow.
“The hospitality industry is one of those industries where you can develop within,” he said.