Willowbank To Close, 46 Jobs Lost

September 29, 2011

Willowbank Hotel in Sandys Parish will be closing its doors after 51 years in business, and 46 employees both part-time and full time will lose their jobs at the end of November 2011.

Fernance Perry, Chairman for the hotel’s board of trustees, said: “We as trustees of Willowbank regret very much the circumstances that necessitated the decision that was made on 19th of September 2011, which was unanimously agreed to close Willowbank Hotel’s operation on the 30th of November for an indefinite period.”

“However, we did not arrive at the above conclusion without giving it lots of thought and discussions for a considerable period of time. The decision was not made in haste.”

“The reason it was not done sooner was because we had always taken into consideration our valued employees and the hardship it would put on each of them.”

“Willowbank has always been a place that was dedicated to God as a Christian Guest House right from its inception in 1960 when it opened its doors as a small operation. In going forward in the future, the Trustees would like to make it known they have have no plans to sell or lease the property.”

“We are praying that God will give a clear vision of what Willowbank will be used for. Until such time we will be hiring just enough personnel to maintain the property, including keeping all of the buildings in first class condition.”

“We trust the closure of Willowbank will not impose any undue hardships on our staff and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the management and staff publicly for their dedicated years of service and wish them well in their future endeavours.”

Open since 1960, Willowbank described itself on its website as “a non-denominational, non-profit Christian hotel, welcoming all visitors to Bermuda. While our governing principles are firmly rooted in the historic Christian faith, throughout our history Willowbank has welcomed all visitors, without regard to religious affiliation.”

Update 5:23pm: Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kim Wilson issued a statement in response to Willowbank’s closing as well as Citigroup’s decision to relocate approximately 100 jobs to North America.

Minister Wilson said, “I too like the rest of Bermuda was quite saddened to learn about the closure of Willow Bank. This is one of the Island’s long standing tourism icons, and I’m sure this was not an easy decision for the management of the hotel to make. Willow Bank has been a wonderful tourism ambassador on behalf of Bermuda, servicing tens of thousands of guests over the past five decades.

Her full statement is here.

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Comments (59)

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  1. Shaking the Head says:

    Well, that’s another one down, and no new ones to replace it. Very sad for all concerned. So much for the much hyped “Platinum Period” of Tourism. Maybe had more effort been directed to Bermuda’s traditonal markets of North America and less on jaunts to non Christian locales such as India and China, but we know why, Bermuda’s Tourism would not be in the shambles it is in. Maybe a full time Minister with Tourism experience would help?

    • Truth be told says:

      “no new ones to replace it” ?????? we don’t have any tourists so we don’t NEED any new ones to replace this one. we’ve got more that will be closing soon, no need to build anything.

      • Depressed says:

        But we were promised by Dr Brown that the new Park Hyatt would break ground just before the election in 2007, and earlier this year promised again that it would start in November 2011 (an election in December?) Are you suggesting we need more tourists just to fill the few beds we have left? That’s a novel approach.

  2. Terry says:

    Sad indeed. The staff over the years have been dedicated, trustworthy and exemplery.

  3. Motts Apple Sauce says:

    Do we really need new properties if no one is coming here?

    • TJ says:

      I agree. What is the point of building new hotels if the tourism numbers aren’t growing. We need to do something that makes Bermuda an attractive vacation spot and start filling the beds that are currently available. Its too bad that this had to happen.

  4. Family Man says:

    Does this mean God sees no future in Bermuda’s hotel business?

    • Hey just watch how you talk about OUR Heavenly Father,there are people who have work there for years and years that are now out of a job,why don’t you pray to God about bringing the tourist Business back there in Bermuda instead of asking the question about YOUR future there in BDA !!

  5. Riley B King says:

    46 jobs lost. That’s 46 more families suffering because the government can’t get its act together on tourism. And we have to still wait until next year for a foreign consultant to write a business plan.

    • Lissa says:

      I guess Fernance Perry is protecting his billions…

      • Riley B King says:

        I’m sure the 46 people will enjoy your ‘joke’.

        • Willowbank Staff says:

          Please do not make a joke of this situation. We are all up here feeling the hurt. Keep us in your prayers… That we will find new employment.

          This is peoples parents losing jobs.. Children suffering.. WE AREN’t just losing our job we are losing our lives too.

  6. Open for business ? says:

    Didn’t the PLP tell us in 1998 that only they knew what was wrong with tourism and they guaranteed a turnaround in 100 days ?

    No plan then and none now .

  7. star man says:

    Which property is next? Any bets…?

    • ap says:

      $100 on cambridge beaches!

      • Yawn says:

        I can’t keep up, is Pink Beach still around or is it still gasping for breathe? If they are still around I say they are next.

      • Chart says:

        Take your pick. There are no tourists. Bermuda has no tourism industry.
        For the past 10 years, we’ve had a business travel industry. PLP blew it by scaring the business sway, and also allowing companies to have their own real estate. Never mind playing political weirdness of marketing to themselves rather than American tourists.
        They filled up the numbers by dumping a lot of cruise business – although I have never seen an analysis of the tax collections vs the cost of building that dock.
        STOP POLITICAL LEADERSHIP OF TOURISM. If the damn ministers had any capability in the sector … they’d be working in it!

    • PEPPER says:

      star man.could it be the one major hotel in bda ?

  8. Watcher says:

    Platinum period, my rear end!!! Another Dr. Brown P.R. fantasy!!!

  9. Chart says:

    Don’t worry, Patrice aims to update the tourism strategic plan by 2013.

  10. Truth says:

    Very, very sad. Interesting the statement about ‘we trust this won’t cause any undue hardships on the employees’. Ummm, I’m going to hazard a guess and say yes? We’re in a depressed economy with an increasing number of unemployed who will be applying for a decreasing number of jobs.

    Tough times are ahead, Bermuda.

  11. Kool-aid Drinker says:

    This cannot be true its the PLATINUM PERIOD OF TOURISM

  12. Clinton J. A. Paynter OBA Affiliated says:

    We need a Tourism Authority to take the Politics out of Tourism.

    • PEPPER says:

      -Clinton , how long have we said we need a tourism Authority board ? and to think we have P.M. in charge of tourism !!!! and she is just a part time tourist minister…..I am so glad that my money is not in the bank of Butterfield..

  13. cricket fan says:

    Although I understand a lot of the concern here, I would like to add something else to this. I worked at the Willowbank for 12 years (include summer as a high scool student and then as college student). I am very sadden by it closure. What a wonderful place to work at. Yes the work was hard at times but the blessing of coming outside and seeing beauty and feeling the peace around you! There are so many people who worked there making it a place where people could relax and reflect!

  14. just don't get it says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong.. but wasn’t the main focus of Brown was to attract high end visitors to the Island. Seems to me high end visitors don’t spend as much in our restaurant, bars, shops etc..as the regular Mr. & Mrs. Smith.. What happened to college weeks… yes the island was over run but many businesses profited in that short time. Flights to Bermuda are becoming more reasonable but the cost of hotel rooms are still high. I know of a guest house that is constantly booked practically all year round, small, quaint, comfortable, and affordable to the average you and me.
    People want value for dollar, or if they are paying top dollar they want the impeccable service that is expected of top dollar, which most Bermuda hotels fall short on. I always wondered why a hotel would sit at 50-60% occupancy when if rates were lowered somewhat they could have the volume and still make a profit. We need to make Bermuda affordable.

    • Hang up and call again says:

      College weeks needs to return – it might not return the same dollar value as older visitors but a far sight better than cruise visitors. It’s also a opportunity to get people on the island and entice them back for future visits.

      • Shaking the Head says:

        If College weeks returned it would be very short lived. Revenue from Magistrtaes Court would balloon for a couple of weeks then it would all fizzle out.

      • outkasted says:

        Bermuda needs BUZZ NO Buzz NO Peolple. Bermuda biggest Buzz worthy event/holiday is CUPMATCH! WE Don’t MARKET OR USE IT TO CREATE BUZZ IT IS TIME! PUT A BERMUDIAN FACE TO IT AND GET IT OUT THERE ON THE WEB ,TV, MEDIA

    • Truth says:

      We don’t offer good enough service for the price. Value for dollar, right now, is poor. We’ve priced ourselves right off the market. Hell, we’ve had bus and ferry issues the entire tourism season that’s made international headlines. We are very far from being a ‘premium’ destination with our current product.

      FWIW, 6 months ago I took a Caribbean cruise, visited 5 islands. While Bermuda remains a beautiful island on the surface, it was quite obvious to me why people are flying right across Bermuda, to visit our competitors. In terms of value for dollar, amenities, local flavor, ATTITUDE, we aren’t even CLOSE to those islands!

    • Chart says:

      Brown targetted african american tourists… aka the new color of money is brown. Marketed to himself.

  15. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Ahhh fork it! Build some condos for the SUPER-DUPER-RICH! Hey Gilbert…where you off to bye!!!

  16. Emeka47 says:

    I am so sorry about this closure….Please keep the resturant open. We don’t have any nice places to eat at the West End like this. Their brunch is the best in the island. Real BERMUDA COOKING, GREAT FOOD. GREAT PRICE and GREAT PEOPLE. I am so sadden. Where shall I go to eat on Sundays. Nothing is commparable to this place!

  17. Hang up and call again says:

    Platinum refers to the material lining of the politicians pockets…Sadly, it’s not just the politicians problem, but also the surly attitude shown to visitors by hotel and bus staff. Bermuda needs to refocus on the younger tourists – make it a fun and relaxing visit, but not completely neglecting the older repeat customers. Tourists coming from the passenger liners don’t spend much because they can get it cheaper on board – what can be done about that? It will all boil down to a combination of price, access (and the time/spent/wasted for that access) and entertainment. Oh, and do something about crime.

  18. Inspector14 says:

    Wow, a not-for-profit hotel can’t make it in Bermuda. What does that tell prospective investors about the returns they can expect.

  19. navin johnson says:

    add the 46 at Willowbank to the 13 at Bacardi and the now 105 at Citigroup not a good week for local employment…

  20. Arikahs says:

    “We trust the closure of Willowbank will not impose any undue hardships on our staff…”

    Uh…he’s kidding right?

  21. sheila says:

    So y are they building this big hotel if we have no tourists to fill up the hotels/guest houses now. It really doesn’t make any sense. Need to promote what we have now not make more. Our island and people have big financial problems and the solution to build a bigger more expensive one will only make it worse. Millions of dollars would be wasted. That’s crazy. Don’t be dumb and figure it out.

  22. wow says:

    This is very sad, a sign of things to come.

  23. B, a Lady says:

    In the past quarter, we have had ASB (30) HWP (12) Bacardi (13) Willowbank (46) and Citigroup (105), for a grand total of 206. This is catastrophic for an island our size. What can we all do to help reverse this trend?

  24. outkasted says:

    Ok let’s put all things in perspective. Cold hard FACTS!!

    Tourism has been in decline for nearly 30 years…FACT
    Since which the same product has been marketed….FACT
    Any new initiatives that were implemented had little impact FACT!
    During the time of economic highs we did not come up with new initiatives FACT!
    Surf,Sun,Sand not to mention golf can be offered almost nearly anywhere FACT!
    Our neighbors to the South upgraded their product we did not. FACT!
    Our neighbors market not only their Hotels etc..but their people as well FACT!
    Bemuda Tourism woes will not change simply because we do NOT think outside of the box! FACT
    Small steps are needeed to get the BUZZ out about our island utilise CUPMATCH and make it a 3 day holiday and ram the island out next year!!! FACT!
    Once you get a Buzz going people will inquire, people will talk, and finally people will come FACT!
    If there is NO BUZZ, NO EXCITEMENT, no matter what you build, what you offer,people wil NOT I REPEAT WILL NOT SET FOOT on this ISLAND! IF YOU DO NOT put a FACE (BERMUDIAN PEOPLE) to the next marketing campaign once again you will FAIL and that’s a FACT JACK!!!
    -nuff said

    • Riley B King says:

      …and you think the big idea to save us all is to expand Cup Match to 3 days…

      LaVerne, is that you?

      • Rockfish#1and#2 says:

        @Riley B King,
        No insults,no sarcasm,no anti opposition rhetoric etc,couldn’t possibly be the Defender!

        • Shaking the Head says:

          B, a Lady’s post has more of a LaVerne ring to it. Lost the plot, clueless, doesn’t know what to do and seeks help. Sort of a “Dear Abby” plea.

    • LOL (original) says:

      If we can keep the fighting from the Summer Splash Fest (can’t rember the name right now) at Horseshoe Beach and expand that for say a week that could be at least one other event.


  25. Jeff says:

    Sad to see the hotel go. I can’t imagine any hotel in Bermuda is making money, the cost of running them is too high. It would only make economic sense to open a hotel with a large casino, as this is the only way to be economically viable. The casino would also bring in visitors year round and would employ mostly Bermudians as all of the casino jobs are easily trainable. The government should be looking at companies like Ceasars to develop vacant lots like the Sonesta.

  26. Willowbank Staff says:

    We ask that you keep us in your prayers. That better days will come.

    Thank You.

  27. George Edwards says:

    Cruise ships ruined Bermuda. Period. That was a short-sighted decision by the govt for short term docking fees. Once tourists could come on a ship, there was no incentive to fly and stay in a hotel or guest house. It’s really that simple. I’ve been a tourist coming to Bermuda for 25 years. We’ve watched the change, been very close to guest house managers and it all comes back to the cruise ships. And they are never going away.

  28. Jus' Askin' says:

    “the Trustees would like to make it known they have no plans to sell or lease the property” Sounds to me like they have other plans ;-)

  29. Angry Tax Payer says:

    SMH,,, Don’t worry PLP ministers, you don’t wanna take a pay cut, but if this stuff keeps happening we wont have any money to pay you anyway.

    There is such a thing as in admit that you were wrong about somethings, apologize and move forward, excepting ideas no matter where they come from as long as they will work.

  30. Virginia Wiggin says:

    TIP #1: Work a deal to CUT airline fares to Bermuda. East Coasters (including me) will flock to your fabulous island!

    My parents stayed at Willowbank for 20 years, and I stayed at that gorgeous place with them in 2001.

    TIP #2: Elect a US Pres next year who will boost private sector, rather than butcher it. More US citizens’ money means more for vacations!

    You heard it here!