The Ritz-Carlton will bring new first-rate facilities to the TCI, including a BLT Steak restaurant, and create hundreds more jobs (Ritz-Carlton)

Gemma Handy

There™s a palpable buzz in the air as the TCI counts down to the opening of the Islands™ first 12-storey development “ and its first luxury-branded homes “ now just 12 weeks away.

Had it not been for the pandemic, the controversy which initially abounded over the Ritz-Carlton resort™s height might have lingered. In reality, what threatened to be an economic catastrophe for the nation just might have been the developers™ boon.

Today, the towering structures dominating the Grace Bay skyline, dwarfing their neighbours, stand as a paragon of hope, a light at the end of a dark tunnel as the TCI starts to dust itself off from the effects of the worst global crisis in a century.

The process of hiring the estimated 300 staff needed to man the hotel is now underway “ music to the ears of the many local residents who lost jobs to the coronavirus.

Asked about the development™s impending impact on the TCI, general manager John Hazard™s passion is tangible.

“People have accepted its height on the basis of what the hotel and brand will bring to the local economy,” he tells the Weekly News.

“I have been here since January, and the welcome I have had from local businesses, residents and the Government has been overwhelming.

“We are on track to open on June 22 and we have had a fantastic amount of interest,” the British businessman continues.

“We have been very busy and 2022 is already looking very, very good. People are clearly ready to travel, especially those in the luxury end of the market.”

It™s no secret the Islands™ real estate sector has boomed in the last year, despite the odds, reaping dividends in everything from stamp duty revenue to the trickle-down effects of a new batch of well-heeled residents spending time and cash here.

“The private homes have been very popular. All of Tower A has sold out “ that™s 36 condos “ along with 70 percent of Tower B [24 condos],” Hazard says.

“Most of our buyers are from North America but we have had significant local interest too.”

In three months™ time, the very first guests will check in to the resort™s deluxe 147-key hotel. On hand to cater to them will be hundreds of specially trained staff.

And this is where the Ritz-Carlton brand really comes into its own; superlative service is a prerequisite for the industry-leading firm.

“It™s our aim to get more local islanders into hospitality,” Hazard explains. “One of our goals is to support the education sector by establishing a structured programme of hospitality training.

“We will also develop internship programmes, attracting and growing the local talent that™s here.”

One way of ensuring the latter is via a forthcoming training scheme, delivered by 40 of the company™s most highly-rated hospitality professionals who are jetting in entirely for this purpose.

“Each trainer has their own area of expertise “ for example, in the art of mixology; the cocktails of 10 years ago are certainly not what they are now.

“We will also have human resources professionals to give seminars and we have some great chefs coming in too,” Hazard says.

“Ritz-Carlton is investing very heavily in the countdown process to opening. This is probably a first for the brand.”

In addition to helping the hotel™s own staff sculpt their skills, the company will also roll out training seminars to the wider community to give other local residents a leg-up in the sector too.

“We want to show people what opportunities hospitality can bring,” says Danitra Clare, director of human resources operations.

“The pandemic has left a lot of people unemployed; we want to engage with them and enhance the level of hospitality skills the TCI has to offer,” she explains.

By the end of 2022, the company plans to expand its workforce to 400, from its initial complement of 300.

A recruitment fair kicked off on Monday to help fill openings in everything from front-of-house and food and beverage, to the spa and casino.

“The wages will be competitive and will likely exceed the going rate,” Clare says. “We want to be an employer of choice.

“Staff will benefit from the robust training we offer, with opportunities to grow and create a meaningful career in the industry.”

Scores of residents have already embarked on a 10-week gaming academy with participants first in line to be considered for one of the 60 jobs in the resort™s 5,000 square foot casino.

Like the rest of Ritz-Carlton™s facilities, the casino will be open to the general public.

“We want to be very much the centre of the community, providing a welcome to everyone who wants to come in,” Hazard says.

An on-site BLT Steak restaurant will be the latest addition to TCI™s lauded culinary scene. The fine-dining eatery fuses contemporary steakhouse fare with seafood dishes and signature salads.

There will also be a Mediterranean poolside restaurant serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner, a luxurious spa, and a lobby with a public bar.

Within the hotel itself, there are nine more properties for sale. The entire development spans 10.5 acres and 700 linear feet of Grace Bay Beach.

For the next few weeks, the hundreds of workers hired for the Ritz-Carlton™s construction will be putting the finishing touches to the resort which is set to become another jewel in the TCI™s esteemed tourism crown.

“The mood surrounding this development is very upbeat right now,” Hazard adds. “People are starting to see green shoots of recovery in the Islands – and light at the end of the tunnel.”

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