By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Baha Mar has increased the number of staff being brought back for the Grand Hyatt's December 17 re-opening to 1,800, or 40 percent of its total workforce, the resort's top executive said yesterday.
Graeme Davis, the Cable Beach mega resort's president, told Tribune Business that this represented a slight increase on the initial 1,500 figure given when it unveiled its re-opening plans as he reiterated the goal remained to open the SLS Lux and Rosewood properties in the 2021 first quarter
Explaining that he did not anticipate a major pick-up in guest bookings until March 2021 or the first quarter's end, he said: “I don't expect to see a solid increase until March 2021, and that is if our key markets in the United States - the COVID -19 surge - declines dramatically, demand continues to pick up and, of course, airlift is there to support it.
“We have been speaking with the airlines, and they are certainly ready to increase airlift as soon as they see the demand as well.” A Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) executive told Tribune Business yesterday that flights coming into The Bahamas have been steadily increasing since early December in anticipation of the major hotels such as Atlantis, which opens today, and Baha Mar, returning.
Mr Davis, meanwhile, added: “At this time for the opening next week, bookings are slow; certainly significantly off over prior years. That is understandable with the COVID surge in our key markets. However, we expected this, and we think we're in a very good position to open safely for all of our guests, our associates and the community.
“We believe this is a ramping up into the first quarter of 2021, where we're starting to see some increased demand as we start to go into 2021 and beyond. So it's an important milestone to show and build the consumer confidence for 2021. So we believe very strongly that we're going to be providing an exceptional experience for all of our guests.”
Amenities that will be available for guests on December 17 will be the Grand Hyatt’s multiple restaurants, golf and tennis facilities, and Baha Mar’s new miniature golf course. The Prime Minister yesterday toured Baha Mar's new $250m water park, where 85 percent of the value of contracts has been issued to Bahamian companies.
Some 350 to 400 Bahamians have been employed daily since construction resumed after COVID-19 lockdowns, and around 400 new jobs will be created when it opens in July 2021.
"We would love the local community come and join us as well, to come and stay with us," Mr Davis added yesterday. "We were offering complimentary COVID testing upon arrival. So it's a great way to create a staycation and come and stay at the property, take a rapid antigen test and, of course, being negative, you can come and enjoy the facilities and have a great vacation.
“Our number one priority is the safety and security of our guests, our associates in the community. We want to ensure that we have the necessary COVID protocols in place to do that.
“We are testing every guest upon arrival with a rapid antigen test. We are testing all of our associates prior to arrival back to work, and also every week to ensure that we're creating that safe environment. We have the necessary safety protocols in place in our outlets. In our in all of our departments, proper sanitisation, physical distancing, mask wearing, washing hands," he said.
“For instance, in restaurants, we have QR codes for menus. So you can order touch mostly. Our room keys have been switched over. We have these fantastic wristbands that we've used since 2019, where they can open the room and charge to the room through a wristband and attach those devices. So we're creating a touchless experience as much as possible throughout the property.
“So we're taking very seriously the safety and welfare of our guests, our associates in the community. We're working closely with Doctors Hospital on the testing, and the reporting and working with the Ministry of Health as well.”
While Baha Mar plans to bring back 40 percent of its employees next week, the remaining 60 percent will remain on the Government's unemployment benefit scheme. Mr Davis said: “We are hopeful that the NIB and the Ministry of Finance will understand to treat our employees fairly.
"We appreciate what the Government of the Bahamas has done so far in supporting our associates, as have we with ex gratia payments, and we are hopeful that the Ministry of Finance along with NIB will make the necessary payments here as soon as possible.”