Ritz boss attacks CIG’s lack of vision

| 11/11/2020 | 276 Comments
Ministers Moses Kirkconnell and Joey Hew with Ritz-Carlton GM Marc Langevin

(CNS): Marc Langevin, the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton resort, pulled no punches Wednesday, as he accused government of abandoning the tourism sector through fear and emotion over the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a private sector tourism event at the hotel, the Ritz boss attacked government for a lack of vision or plan and an illogical approach to the border closure and a ban on most visitors.

Around 60 people from the tourism sector were in attendance at the forum organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association following the industry body’s annual general meeting.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell and Commerce Minister Joey Hew, along with Department of Tourism Director Rosa Harris joined Langevin on a panel examining the survival of the tourism industry in the face of the continued pandemic and the border closure.

Langevin criticised government for its failure to engage with hoteliers, not properly looking and learning from other destinations, not having a vision and a lack of transparency over the missing plan to reopen. He hit out over the failure to develop protocols that could include more testing and technology for potential visitors instead of long quarantines, and of being led entirely by fear and emotion over the pandemic rather than logic.

The situation for the hotel owners, the Ritz manager said, was simply unsustainable and “writing a few cheques for the staff is not going to cut it”, he added, pointing out that with 10% occupancy at his hotel and similar levels at others, they would soon all be out of business.

He pressed the issue of resort bubbles, of which he has been a persistent proponent, and even suggested creating a bubble bridge between Cayman and Canada without the need for quarantine by using repeat testing instead. He suggested that Cayman could be promoted by inviting Canadians to “come and defrost”.

Langevin berated the ministers and expressed his frustration at the lack of any indication when things may begin to open up just a little. But it also became clear from contributions from other hotel owners and tourism stakeholders that the government and the industry leaders were not engaging with them very frequently, if at all.

The ministers both expressed sympathy for the position taken by the industry players, but they both pointed out that the government policy was to prioritise the safety of the resident population. While the tourism sector was not necessarily being discriminated against, protecting the rest of the economy and avoiding another lockdown was still the priority.

Nevertheless, Kirkconnell said that the Cayman economy was not sustainable in the long term without tourism and he admitted that a way had to be found to open up. Falling short of criticising the public health advice, he spoke about the best practice and the decisions being made on advice from the scientists here and in the UK.

He said that things would not have been as bad as they are now, regarding the length of quarantine, were it not for the resurgence of the virus in Cayman’s major market places. He said that the recommendations from public health officials, given the spread of the virus in London and Miami, were such that even with pre-testing, there was still no way to avoid the 14-day quarantine.

Kirkconnell re-emphasized the government’s approach would be to focus on long-term, high net worth guests until the vaccine, which is expected to be available before the end of the year, takes effect and Cayman gets access to quality antigen testing.

Harris confirmed that 32 applications have been made for the Global Citizen Programme but only one has been approved so far. Kirkconnell noted that this equated to over 70 people and that there was a significant number of inquiries coming from very wealthy people. He said that, combined with the number of Seven Mile Beach property owners who had been returning, it would help keep the sector alive until tourism began to unfold more fully in the first quarter of next year.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The tourism sector should realize by now that it will have to repackage it’s product to a lesser income bracket for the property owners of the hotels (and NOT the franchise) to keep from foreclosure.

    This is a slow rolling recession and the hotel owners and caymans ‘world-class’ status are about to be the first casualties and government will NOT save them.

    This government stipend of $1000 is a short gap to keep voters paid until elections. It is not sustainable and the very product of our tourism is going to change.

    Welcome to budget hotels and timeshare property schemes.

    Real estate is going to boom and home and land ownership will become out of the reach of Caymanians, after the island is bought out by wealth global citizens looking to invest longterm. This will sky rocket sale prices.

    If you can now is the time to invest in property if you are a Caymanian. Own something, because we won’t be able to next year.

    Of course if you’r wealthy this message is not for you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The guy wants to open up while the US is reporting over 150,000 new cases a day. Public health is definitely not his best interest…

    • Joe B says:

      The economic future of the island never was and never will be in a Caymanians best interest. We get it. Most of the infrastructure (hotels,offices, stores, homes and businesses,and land) are expat owned. You have no need to keep that going. Expats have no representation here. They might want to keep that in mind in the next round of the long game. Expats are still making money. Their economies are working and doing well. They have taken a hard look at the risks/rewards and moved forward back towards prosperity. Where will they be in a years time? Where will Caymanians be? My take is that expats will be ready to buy. Caymanians will be ready to sell. So have Patience. As far as how great is hiding from Covid Japan(another island nation that has done well at hiding from Covid) had more suicides just last month than all Covid deaths the previous 9 months. I know what that tells me.

      • Anonymous says:

        You left out the part where Caymanians sold everything to expats.

      • Anonymous says:

        I would not hold up Japan as a fair example or contrast when it comes to suicides. Unfortunately they have been known over there to commit suicides because of such simple things as not getting an A on an exam because to them that is a shame in the family. Life is hard for some here but please let us not resort to that. If anyone out there knows of someone who needs a hand out please do not hesitate to help. A few dollars now and then could be the difference between having a meal or going hungry. If we can help someone along the way let us do so. I sympathize with Mr. Langevin and all the other business owners who are not making the big bucks now, but he and all of us really need to realise that we have to try to keep this virus under control as much as possible. What are we to do? Opening up the floodgates would be foolhardy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    He wont be getting no more permit!

  4. DLF says:

    There are so many things wrong on so many levels. Cayman can’t survive long term without tourism. The government can’t afford to prop up tourism businesses forever. Many people are terrified of the vaccine, terrified to open the borders, while others are terrified of what this place will look like if we do not open the borders. There are ways to bring tourism back, but there will be risks. Pre-testing is a key ingredient in reopening. Many will not agree with me but at some point, the collapse of tourism will begin to impact other sectors.

    In my opinion, CIG does not have a plan to reopen and they do not wish to make a plan. They will sit and wait and continue to wait until the money runs out…and it will run out, there is not an endless supply of cash. What happens then?

    We continually hear tourism only makes up 25% of Cayman’s economy. But how does a country function long term when 25% of their economy is effectively on life support with little to no hope of recovery in the near future? This isn’t simply about the Ritz, Kimpton, Westin, etc..this is about thousands of properties and small businesses that depend on tourism.

    CIG should be open to finding a way back to tourism. A 14 (effectively 16) day quarantine is not conducive to people visiting this island. Don’t be too proud to learn from others; examples are out there, research them, tweak them to fit this place, and find a way back.

    • Anonymous says:

      Frankly, everyone does not have any equitable share in the profits to be made by re-opening the borders and has been so for many years before Corona’s origin story began in Wuhan, China.

      Anybody who plans to reside or make any more money here for any remotely long-term period needs to work together with everyone, local or not, friend or foe, to adequately fix and cater to the existing problems in Cayman before ruining the dinner pot with adding too much salt too fast. Whether someone is willing to work like a slave for their boss or not is up to them and is not the point, everybody deserves a fair takeaway slice before seconds and thirds can be administered to confidants and raffled away to lure in more “play ball athletes”.

      I should only expect to read about this garbage in history books, not have to live or die through it. Everybody needs to grow up, stop the tattletales, discipline the bullies, and share at the playground. If children can do it, why can’t the adults?

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for your opinion. I prefer being Covid free and without a second lockdown. Mass tourism guarantees another lockdown. Just wait. Bermuda will prove it. Give it 4 weeks.

  5. Robert Bodden says:

    Govt need to seriously down size..things to come in 2021

  6. Anonymous says:

    Lots of local businesses have gone out of business during this pandemic. Why should massive companies owned by billionaires be able to dictate public health policy to suit their business needs?

    If the Ritz is mothballed for six months it will still be standing and able to operate again next year.

  7. Anonymous says:

    He comes off not caring about the overall tourism product but rather the Ritz business only. That is seen in him ‘assisting’ with the Hospitality School but will not hire anyone from it.

    It makes no sense to open to Florida/London or any other location if they are adding record numbers of cases every week.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Ritz is not the only business that is suffering. I own two rentals on Cayman Brac on which I heavily depend for my living and yet I am willing to make the sacrifice to keep the borders closed until a better system is in place for tourism. On a relative scale I am in worse shape than the Ritz Carlton and if I can do it they sure can cooperate without complaining. Saving lives in the Cayman Islands and preventing the madness that is going on in the US is more important than anything else to me.

    • anonymous says:

      Unfortunately your perception of how it is going in America is based on mass media, which is not representative of reality.
      In reality, much of the states are functioning normally, hospitals are functioning normally, death is not abound on every street corner.
      Lets stop with the perception that covid positive means absolute death, it is simply not true

      • Anonymous says:

        exactly. Thank you.. There is an hidden agenda behind the fair the media is pushing.. fake news..

  9. Anonymous says:

    I would say that it is Marc Langevin who lacks vision. There are over 900 people in quarantine in Cayman and he is making very little effort to get a major portion of that business.

    Here is a nice hotel in New York for $90 or less per night. Why don’t you try something like this to increase occupancy Marc?

    • Anonymous says:

      I would love to agree with you but im sure it comes down to operating at a loss once you charge below certain overhead prices.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly!!! It is a small fortune to come to Cayman with the Canadian dollar being so low. It is a LARGE fortune to stay at the Ritz. This guy is more than clueless. Canadians are hurting just as bad as you all are and we sure don’t need to come to Cayman to help out the already well to do RitzyTitzies.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If the Ritz dropped there room rates they would probably get more business. A friend called a couple of weeks ago and was quoted over $500 for a Sunday night.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hmm…I’d like to fly on a private jet…

    • Anonymous says:

      And they are doing 4 night minimums during Christmas and only allowing people staying to book their Christmas events. I’m sure they are still getting a decent income with the owners in the north an south tower

  11. Anonymous says:

    WOW. I would say everyone against Marc Langevin for critical thinking and questioning the system need to check their hat at the door. He was very respectful to government. Science based examples of other islands opening safely were presented. It was shown that there are options for reopening the boarders. It was proven wrong to ignore 25% of the countries GNP by allowing tourism to be decimated. And decimated is the correct word. After the boarders open the tourism sector wont just bounce back. Tourists have lost confidence in Cayman. They will have found other markets (tropical destinations) to spend their money.
    It was pointed out that CIG invested heavily in Tourism in the past, especially when there were concerns of Banking being Black Listed. What a tragic event it would be if we allow tourism to collapse and something causes the financial market to take a downward spiral.
    Lastly, everyone has to acknowledge that globally we are in the start of a true economic crisis. Whilst currently most of Cayman is able to put food on the table and spend moneys on entertainment you have to ask at what cost and for how long. Hospitality is the frog to our economic ecosystem. It is the predictor of events to come. Other sectors are starting to, or soon will, feel the impact and then it will be too late.
    Thank you to the critical thinkers and risk takers for making CIG think of alternate paths that can be taken towards reopening. Thank you for standing up in a room alone and without backing. It was obvious as the meeting was forced to an end that if discussions continued others in the room would have stood with you.

    • Anonymous says:

      “He was very respectful to government”?

      Two words: UNPAID CONCESSIONS. Your honor I rest my case…

      CNS: The unpaid concessions have absolutely nothing to do with the company operating the Ritz. Dart owns the bricks and mortar but did not inherit the debt from Michael Ryan. I can’t remember the details off-hand but it’s in the CNS archives somewhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        My like is for CNS CNS response.

      • Anonymous says:

        One of Michale Ryan’s companies which went bust. The same guy who is getting concessions on Fin. Think your “case” is against Mr Ryan, or even better the government officials who a) gave concessions in the first place b) allowed Ryan to continue to operate when he was in default c) didn’t take any steps to secure their claim or even put it into liquidation and best of all d) are offering the same unsecured concessions to a man who has demonstrated he cannot be trusted to pay back money to the government. Do you think a bank would offer another mortgage to someone they had previously foreclosed on?

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with keeping the boarders open. It is the borders that need to be kept closed.

  12. Anon says:

    Sorry Mark its hard to believe that the major hotels are going to go bankrupt. Are you inferring that Dart is going to shutter all his business on island and declare bankruptcy. Hardly! Both the Marriott and Westin are own by wealthy individuals or consortiums and if they want to walk away then so be it, there will be lots of investors willing to take their place. Seeing the COVID numbers spike worldwide gives more credibility to our governments actions than your soapbox diatribe.

    • Anonymous says:

      You know the Westin went into receivership a couple of years ago, right? And that Treasure Island, owned by a hospitality investment fund, went bust and declared bankruptcy?

  13. Anonymous says:

    What’s the difference between a cruise ship and a resort bubble? With a resort bubble the staff get to take Covid home with them every day.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Well said Langevin!
    Thousands of exceptional hard workers who contribute to make cayman the n1 caribbean luxury destination, are now left with nothing, unemployed, forced to return to their home country unable to provide for their families.

  15. Romellia Welcome says:

    How dear Mark, people lives are at stake here, isn’t lives more valuable than money?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Marc, I thought you were closing for renovations and were going to reopen towards the end of 2021? Which is it?

  17. Anonymous says:

    And where will your guests be coming from? COVID 19 infested country.

  18. Anonymous says:

    None of us want to be resort bubble guinea pigs. That is just a dumb idea.

    However, if a suitably large formal scientific study that is endorsed by the WHO, CDC and the UK’s health agency determines that some Covid limiting border protocol that releases arrivals sooner works just as well as what we currently have, then we should look at it. I think that is already in the government’s plan though.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I thought Dart was the Ritz boss?

    • ANONYMOUS says:

      Well you should learn the difference between “ Owner “ and “ Manager “. – Dart may own the hotel but the Ritz Carlton Group manage it under a Licence agreement.

      • Anonymous says:

        The owner is the boss!

        • Anonymous says:

          In more ways than 1

        • Anonymous says:

          No they are not. Read the comment carefully. Then try thinking about it. The person who owns the bricks and mortar does not dictate how the business is run, nor are the operating costs theirs. That being said I am sure Mr Dart does not want to see the Ritz Carlton group pull out, and will take whatever steps necessary to protect the viability of it and his other hotel properties here. Why do you think Moses looked so uncomfortable. He’s not afraid of Mr Langevin.

      • Anonymous says:

        Dart is the boss of the whole damn island, not just the Ritz.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m surprised that Dart hasn’t kicked the Governor out yet and declared sovereignty!!!

        • Anonymous says:

          I have a 600lb gorilla as a house pet.

          Really – where does he sleep?

          Anywhere he likes!

          We have a man who owns at last count over a third of the real estate on the island, most of our flagship hotel properties, most of our class A commercial property, and allegedly controls most of the print and radio media. Oh, and has the kind of financial reserves that he can afford to close businesses down and just sit on the property to send a message.

    • Anonymous says:

      well was he wrong? Moses is poking his eye out with his own finger and for Jo who?

    • Cruyff says:

      Spoken by a man not wearing a mask as a direct result of the hard work and key decisions made by the two men seated next to him.

      • Anonymous says:

        So true. I live in Canada. We are always with mask on outside of our homes. It is beyond terrible. I wouldn’t risk Cayman for this lifestyle. We have mass closures of restaurants, theatres, gyms, funerals and weddings are capped, holidays have ceased to exist. Be careful what you wish for, as it is a real life movie here and NOT in a good way.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lol. You think Moses and Joey were responsible! Man, I have a bridge to Little I want to sell – perhaps you would buy that too.

  20. AmplifyCayman says:

    Need to embrace the bigger picture #FutureofTourism

  21. Anonymous says:

    He just acres abut his own resort and his pay packet – remember senior staff at hotels have a large commission/profit based component of their total pay.

    Why are so many people on here saying the hotels don;t employ enough Caymanians? The government put loads of pressure on Dart who in turn puts loads of pressure on hotels to try and employ Caymanians, but from my experience there aren’t enough Caymanians qualified or willing to work hard enough at providing the level of 5 star service to guests a resort like the Ritz requires.

  22. #AngryFace says:

    This is not just a Cayman problem – the world is standing on a precipice and we are in crisis mode- re-opening is not the solution.

    Gov’t and Private enterprise must re-evaluate their business plan and hit the RESET RETOOL initiatives and circular economies being embraced by other islands in the region. This is Noah’s ark but we have not saved a thing!

    We don’t need taller buildings in George Town, there are no customers to fill empty hotels – we need sustainable infrastructure and healthy biodiverse assets.

    #fix the Dump, reduce consumption
    #pullOffREG, give us solar
    #xnclFossilFuel, give us electric public transport
    #stopSinking, give us stormwater drainage
    #stopConcessions, value our natural capital
    …etc etc

    • Anonymous says:

      No customers to fill resorts??? That because there is no plan to open and our customers are going to every other Caribbean Is that is now open!

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t exaggerate, not that many tourists travelling anyways

      • Anonymous says:

        We are not, we are just as scared to travel out of our own countries!! Moreover, WE DO NOT HAVE MONEY EITHER!! Get a clue about the rest of the world!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Anybody thinking that a resort bubble with pre-testing is a good idea should read this:


    Pre-testing will not prevent the spread of Covid in a closed environment like a cruise ship or a resort. On top of that with a potentially infected resort the staff will be returning to the community and mixing with everyone else every day. Recipe for disaster.

    Airport pre-flight testing combined with arrival testing and 14 day quarantine and followup testing is the only safe protocol.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Moses: prioritise the safety of the resident population
    Public: Seconded, thank you Minister

  25. Anonymous says:

    A resort bubble is a beached cruise ship.

    • Anonymous says:

      With the advantage that the ‘crew’ goes back into the community at the end of each shift.

  26. Remember when... says:

    we just wanted to flatten the curve and make sure the medical system wasn’t overwhelmed?

    Seems a long time ago now. We are Covid-free and I really do enjoy that and I’m still employed so doing fine.

    But there are large sections of the population that are suffering and the response and communication from CIG has been inept.

    Closing the border was the easy part. Coming out the other side is much harder, however spending borrowed money without a plan can’t be the answer.

  27. Anonymous says:

    CNS – you printed the following: “Speaking at a private sector tourism event at the hotel, the Ritz boss attacked government for a lack of vision or plan and an illogical approach to the border closure and a ban on most visitors.”

    That may be the perception of the man from the Ritz, and if that is the case it would be fair to say that, but his saying so does not make it a fact.

    Government’s clearly and repeatedly stated strategy is to give priority to the health of the people of the Cayman Islands in this constantly changing pandemic. Government has also clearly stated that they will open each sector of the economy, including the tourism sector, when the best and most prudent scientific advice says that is safe to do so. As a Caymanian who works in the private sector, I appreciate and approve of that strategy.

    The man from the Ritz, who nobody voted for, understandably has his narrow priorities, but those are not the priorities of the vast majority of the Caymanian people. If the man from the Ritz can come up with a scientifically validated plan for his hotel that does not risk the lives and health of the population, and creates no risk of the need for a further full lock down, I am sure that government will consider it.

    CNS: The article clearly conveys the point of view of the Ritz GM.

    • Anonymous says:

      Look at the rest of the Caribbean, they are open and have tourism!

    • Anon says:

      Where did CNS ever say it is a fact? They are just portraying the view given by the GM of the Ritz. At no point does their article call it ‘fact’? What a silly post.

    • Anon says:

      “…does not risk the livesand health of the population, and creates no risk of the need for further lockdown…” This position is extremely idealistic and unrealistic. It is a product of hysteria and unobjective analysis of covid facts, despite repetitively stating “science.”
      We cannot control nature completely, we try our best with treatments and measures to result in a reasonable balance of disease and restriction of liberty.
      Many have recognized Bermuda’s approach, more recently Alberta, Canada is starting a program of testing on arrival, quarantine for 48hr, if test negative no further quarantine, but repeat test 6-7 day post arrival. So there are other jurisdictions developing plans and procedures to achieve a balance. Are they reckless, I think not. CIG is simply not progreessive with “science” or other jurisdictions, as you seem to purport.

  28. Anonymous says:

    The plan is not to have a plan!

    • Anonymous says:

      Even that would be more of a plan than what they have.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ungrateful brute. Are you still wearing a mask? Are you still shopping on letter days? Have you been our to the pub or for a fine dining experience this week?

        And you say was there no plan? So how are you able to enjoy these freedoms when your friends back home are locked down?

        Cayman has out-shown the world.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nope! New Zealand did and they are just a little bit larger than this piece of sand…

          Whatchu say?

          • Anonymous says:

            Sounds like you should be moving to New Zealand. There are no restrictions on Outbound travel. Too-da-loo!

  29. Anonymous says:

    Ritz has problems everywhere, and I would hazard a guess that their 4th quarter is going to look worse than the 2nd quarter.

    BETHESDA, MD – November 6, 2020 – Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) today reported third quarter 2020 results, which were dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic and efforts to contain it (COVID-19).

    Arne M. Sorenson, president and chief executive officer of Marriott International, said, “While COVID-19 is still significantly impacting our business, our results for the third quarter showed continued improvement in demand trends around the world. Worldwide RevPAR1 declined 66 percent in the quarter, a nearly 19-percentage point improvement from the decline in the second quarter. Greater China continues to lead the recovery and demonstrates the resiliency of travel demand, with third quarter occupancy of 61 percent and RevPAR recovering to down 26 percent, a 35-percentage point improvement compared to the decline in the second quarter. Third quarter occupancy at our hotels in North America reached 37 percent, nearly double occupancy in the second quarter, primarily driven by leisure, drive-to demand, with business and group recovering more slowly. Globally, 94 percent of our hotels are now open and welcoming guests.

    • Anonymous says:

      Globally, 94 percent of our hotels are now open and welcoming guests.👍

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes. Open and welcoming guest. It means they are open, like here, even if occupancy is only 10%

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes and the Ritz is open and receiving staycation visitors and a few luxury Quarantine folks.

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