The Bermuda Hotel Association (BHA) has sent a letter to Premier David Burt, proposing a ‘Stimulus Concessions’ package for the sustainability of the island’s hotel industry.
The letter, sent on behalf of the BHA’s Board of Directors and “by extension” Association Members in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, calls for “collective efforts on the part of all concerned” to ensure that all “isn’t lost on our industry, as we commit to continuing to support The Government through this global health crisis”.
The BHA noted that the island’s hotel industry “hasn’t been spared the fallout of the pandemic, as the majority of the hotel properties and our colleagues are unemployed and facing uncertain futures in terms of when they may be able to meaningfully resume their employment and careers”.
“To this end, we wish to propose to you and the Bermuda Government, that specific and timely consideration be given to the following three (3) specific areas, that will ensure the future reopening and sustainability of our key industry through theses turbulent times. Extension of the Unemployment Benefits Program.
“As mandated under the existing regulations this program is due to be discontinued at the end of the current twelve (12) week term, based on our calculations for those who first qualified under the program will be by mid-June 2020.
“The program has provided invaluable financial support to those most in need, and continues to include our guest worker / work permit holders who are both unable to work, and or to return home to their countries of origin for a number of known reasons.”
The letter continues: “With the level of uncertainty which surrounds our industry as to when the LF Wade International Airport will reopen, airlift will return, and visitors will occupy aircraft seats, book hotel stays etc our Bermudian workers and guest workers face an uncertain future.
“Therefore, with this in mind we are urgently requesting that consideration be given to extending the program for a further period until such time as regular airlift has returned, were properties can then be reopened, individuals can be taken off the program through reemployment, and or be repatriated to their countries of origin in the event that they are deemed as not being required for immediate short and or interim term employment in their former roles.
“They must be supported financially throughout this period of economic uncertainty.
Health Insurance – Mutual Reinsurance Fund (MRF) & Employee Layoffs
“It is the request and recommendation of the BHA that the Bermuda Government provide temporary relief to the hotels by permitting the local insurers to take a break from funding the MRF premiums, and in turn pass the savings of $355.31 per person insured per month directly in the form of financial relief to the Hotel Sector Employees and Employers.
Employment Act 2000 — Existing Regulations – Governing Redundancy
“We wish to reemphasize our multi industry request that urgent amendments be incorporated and made to the existing Act to relax and restructure the policies as it relates to the material and harsh financial costs which will be imposed on all related industries in the event that the pandemic continues to hamper our ability to reemploy workers within the standing four (4) month layoff period, which appears to be unlikely given the existing effects of the pandemic on our economy and the economies of our closest neighbours.
“Should the requested amendments not be acted upon, we fully expect that businesses, including a percentage of our member properties will be forced to permanently close their doors with a catastrophic and negative impact on our economy and therein significantly increasing our overall unemployment numbers of Bermudians.
“Hon Premier, we stand ready and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the foregoing proposed concessions with you and your Ministerial colleagues in greater detail, should you view this to be of additional benefit. Once you have had an opportunity to consider them further, we will look forward to receiving your favorable reply.
“We wish you, your family and all members of the legislature, continued good health, and our best wishes t hat everyone remain safe throughout this pandemic, as we all seek to map out a successful return to the overall health and prosperity of our island home.”