MARIGOT–Grand Case Beach Club will be the first French-side hotel to benefit from the State’s post-hurricane professional training initiatives while the property undergoes reconstruction following extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma.
As such the hotel was the first stop for Minister of Labour Muriel Pénicaud after her arrival on Saturday for a series of official visits and meetings that day on issues of creating employment, professional training, insertion and apprenticeship programmes. Her visit to the French Antilles included Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The delegation was given a brief tour of the damaged property by the hotel’s Financial Controller Jean-François Billot and General Manager Steven Wright. Préfète Déléguée Anne Laubies and President of the Collectivité Daniel Gibbs were in attendance.
“The aftermath of Hurricane Irma ironically presented an opportunity to do some specific training, but before we never had time,” commented Rooms Division Manager in charge of Hunan Resources Lynn Taylor. “Now with the Government funding paying for the costs of the training we have six months available. It means employees can choose what training they want to do. We are in a first phase, consulting with the training centre to see what the employee needs are and what they can get out of it. The training will be done at the centre.”
Some 26 employees of the hotel will benefit from the training, to improve skills or train for a different sector.
“They are going to become stronger, more efficient employees with greater knowledge, and at the end of the day have a diploma in their hand, something some of them never had the opportunity to obtain before,” Taylor added.
The Minister chatted with some of the employees to learn their aspirations. She wished them good luck.
Billot explained that all companies in St. Martin are eligible for the programme once taxes and social charges are paid up to date.
“Because of no Internet and communications, it was very difficult for anyone to benefit from this programme before last month,” he said. “This scheme of partial activity means the employee effectively stays home, but is paid 70 per cent of his or her pay, and 30 per cent is paid by the training centre.
“For us it made sense to get this programme for our employees because they will be out of work for a long time. We all have domestic issues and some employees don’t have insurance. To get full access to the payroll for our employees was a priority.”
Wright said the hotel has a huge percentage of loyal repeat clientele who will come back. “We have been in very close contact with them during the closure,” he said. “That also led to the funding page that was set up by the owners and we had a great turnout with that. We anticipate when we do re-open there will be big demand, because of that loyalty.
“In the reconstruction, we are making the hotel much better and stronger, removing anything where the wind can get underneath. But what is difficult is to project a reopening date. Tentatively we are looking at fall of 2018. We should have three of five buildings ready and the restaurant and other services.”
Of 73 rooms, 44 were destroyed along with the reception and restaurant. But all the employees remained with the hotel.
“We still have the staff today that we had before Hurricane Luis. Grand Case is their home. The relationship between management and staff is very good, like family. The clean-up the employees did after Irma was really good.”