The Guyana Marriott Hotel Project will now be aiming for a Christmas opening after officially missing its August completion deadline.
General Manager, Roberto Grisi confirmed that the hotel is “slated to open this December,” in an email to Stabroek News. Construction at the hotel is ongoing with the exterior still to be finished and construction on the building which will house the entertainment complex and casino is still in a skeletal form.
Grisi revealed that while he “anticipates that 90% – 95% of our new employees will be Guyanese nationals,” the management will be brought in. He said that “when opening our first hotel in any new market, we generally provide an experienced Marriott leadership team to manage and launch the hotel.”
Stabroek News had asked if the project would be bringing staff from other branches to stay on permanently or contractually to facilitate training, however Grisi did not expand on the length of time the experienced management team would be attached to the project. This move by the hotel goes against what was promoted as one of the selling points of the Marriott by the government – that more than 250 jobs were to be created for Guyanese.
The hotel’s general manager continued “An experienced team trains the staff and the entry-level Guyanese supervisors to ensure they are educated on our highly regarded service standards.”
He said that over 50 hours of training is generally required for new employees within the first year of employment. Grisi noted that given the scope of the various positons at the hotel the training levels were varied.
He noted that “It is always our desire to hire from within the countries and communities in which our hotels are located and the people of Guyana have a great spirit and are very hospitable people, something that you cannot train.”
As for Grisi he stated that while he was filling the role of general manager he would be based in Guyana. He did not elaborate on his position as to whether it was temporary for the launch of the hotel. He was formerly attached to Ritz-Carlton, Aruba which he had successfully opened for that chain in 2013.
The hotel began advertising for jobs in late July. Prior to this, observers noted that to adequately staff a five star hotel by August the project should have already commenced hiring. Critics had express-ed concern that the US$58 million hotel may have issues with maintaining a five-star status since hiring had yet to commence in July and the official opening was still slated for August.
President of the Tourism and Hospitality Associa-tion of Guyana Kit Nascimento had told Stabroek News that he understood the potential challenge for the Marriott in hiring competent staff.
Nascimento said that customer service has remained a consistent challenge in Guyana across various industries, but especially the service and tourism sectors. “It is an ongoing challenge. It is a challenge that we all have to meet,” he said in relation to training and hiring staff and transforming customer service across the board.
The Marriott brand offers a variety of training and development programmes including 8-12 weeks focusing on internships, apprenticeships and trainee positions. According to the Marriott Group’s website, the Voyage Global Leadership Development Program lasts anywhere from a year to 18 months and is a “paid leadership development program for recent university graduates and offers a number of opportunities to enrich your future career”. The training and development will not be the same in each country in which the hotel operates, however to maintain the brand and the level of expectation, processes will need to be streamlined.
Marriott again advertised positions in Satur-day’s edition of Stabroek News. These included Director of Services, Director of Event Manage-ment, Front Office Manager, Restaurant Manager, Banquet Manager, Restaurant Chef, Pastry Chef, Banquet Chef, and Loss Prevention Manager among others.
It was only in May this year that the part owners of the hotel were announced. Two Hong Kong businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, were identified as the principals behind the private investment for which Republic Bank Limited in Trinidad at the same time announced long-awaited approval of US$27M in debt financing.
Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) and Republic Bank Ltd (RBL) made the announcement of the investors in a joint statement, just over eight months after executive Director of the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington had disclosed that a private investor would be contributing US$8M towards the needed equity for the completion of the Marriott Hotel and would become the majority shareholder.