By Republic Bank Limited,
Republic Bank Limited partnered with New Energy Events LLC to host the first of a 3-part webinar series – “From the Front-Line: Caribbean Corporate Leaders on the Impacts of COVID-19”. The webinar series is the latest initiative by Corporate and Investment Banking Division of Republic Bank aimed at highlighting unique challenges faced by Caribbean businesses and sharing real time best practices for businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.
Engaging a virtual audience of close to 450 persons, the panel featured leading executives from the hospitality, travel, sports, finance and real estate sectors, who shared valuable insight into how COVID-19 has affected corporations in the Caribbean and the way forward. The panel featured Executive Vice President, Sunwing Travel Group, Daniel Diaz; Managing Director, Blue Waters Products Limited, Dominic Hadeed; Managing Director Republic Bank (EC) Limited, Michelle Palmer-Keizer; and CEO, Caribbean Premier League, Pete Russell. The panel was moderated by Ian De Souza, Principal at Advice Financial Co. Ltd., a corporate advisory practice specializing in business reorganization. Ian De Souza is a former banking executive with over 35 years of experience in the banking industry across the Caribbean.
The panelists shared insights surrounding:
COVID-19’s effect on the day-to-day operations and the prospects for growth
The pandemic’s impact on their respective industries
Relief measures and concessions provided by their respective principal bankers
The response of regional governments and what more needs to be done
Opportunities emerging out of the crisis
THE IMPACT ON CARIBBEAN CORPORATIONS
Blue Waters Products Limited
Dominic Hadeed, Managing Director of Blue Waters Products Limited, noted that the pandemic has required business leaders to not only plan for their scheduled reopening, but to focus their attention on improving their business model to adapt to the changing environment. “What we have seen from the pandemic is that it’s not just good to come back, but you have to come better,” he said. Hadeed noted that his flagship brand, Blue Waters, saw a decline in sales during the peak months of the pandemic resulting from the temporary closure of hotels, offices, and gyms. However, despite these challenges, he said that his company would press ahead with its planned capital investments for the year noting that in some ways the pandemic could yield competitive advantages for businesses willing to make long-term investments during an economic downturn. He noted history has shown that businesses that make investments during the downturn of an economic cycle are better positioned to realize greater benefits during periods of recovery and expansionary in the economic cycle.
Caribbean Premier League
On the heels of the recent announcement that the 2020 instalment of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, Pete Russell, admitted that the CPL was very fortunate to be a Caribbean League given how well the region has been able to contain the spread of the virus as compared to the US and Europe. Like many other businesses, Russell noted that the CPL’s pre-COVID prospects were very bright, but quickly dwindled during April and May. Due to the limitations resulting from the pandemic, the CPL was forced to adapt and present a different look and feel from previous years.
Sunwing Travel Group
Daniel Diaz, Executive Vice President, Sunwing Travel Group, noted how unprecedented the pandemic has been on global tourism stating that it is the first ever economic downturn in recent times to occur without an economic base of activity. For the Royalton All-Inclusive Luxury Resorts across the Caribbean, he noted that within 72 hours, the Group’s hotel occupancy in the respective countries fell from 95% down to 0%. Sunwing Travel Group is the largest tour operator in North America boasting the leading tour operators – Sunwing Airlines, SunwingJets, SellOffVacations.com, Luxe Destination Weddings and Blue Diamonds Luxury Resorts.
Diaz noted that the pandemic has forced travelers to rethink their vacation experience with a preference towards hotels that offer open-air options and lots of spacing. He noted that the allinclusive business model is resilient to shocks, such as a global pandemic given its ability to offer travelers a controlled environment without imposing onerous restrictions on the travel experience.
He further stated that he expects the US and Canada source markets to quickly rebound for the Caribbean. He pointed to very strong pre-bookings for the upcoming winter season from Canada and the resumption of flights by American Airlines and other US carriers to the Caribbean. While he was cautious about relying on the US market given how certain parts of the country has fared with COVID-19, he did express reserved optimism about the health protocols implemented in the region so far for travelers from the US. To this end, Diaz implored Caribbean Governments and CARICOM to take a united approach to health protocols for arrivals and hotel certification requirements.
Republic Bank (EC) Limited
Michelle Palmer-Keizer, Managing Director of Republic Bank’s Eastern Caribbean operations pointed to the decision taken by the Group’s Executive Leadership Team to ensure their clients’ financial preservation was maintained. “Even without a clear understanding of the impact to our clients’ businesses, our first response was to help our customers’ keep the lights on and pay salaries. We did so through a series package of relief measures for businesses directly impacted,” she said.
She noted that Republic Bank has now shifted its focus away from the existential threat to its customer base and finding new ways to help businesses retool their operations for the long term. She expressed that “each customer’s situation will be different and will require unique strategies for rebuilding and returning their businesses to acceptable levels of profitability. However, the pandemic has offered corporate leaders the opportunity to relook at the fundamentals in each of your businesses”.
Main photo: Head office for Republic Bank in Trinidad and Tobago. (File photo)