By FARRAH JOHNSON
BAHA MAR has announced it will not resume operations until October and will carry out additional staff cuts.
The luxury hotel property says it has postponed reopening in light of the “evolving nature” of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to its employees last week, Baha Mar also announced the resort will be carrying out additional staff cuts.
“Due to the many variables resulting from the evolving nature of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to postpone Baha Mar’s reopening and hope to resume operations in October of 2020,” the statement read.
It added: “It is our hope that in prolonging our closing, we are setting the stage for a more successful reopening, one that will provide the much-needed economic relief and long-term stability we all depend on. In addition to creating robust COVID-19 safety plans, we are monitoring bookings and travel demand as we strategise the exact date to reopen and adjust staffing needs.”
Baha Mar said the resort is committed to providing an ex-gratia payment for up to an additional 90 days at 30 percent of employees’ base compensation, in addition to the funds workers would receive from the National Insurance Board.
According to the statement, the resort will also continue to pay insurance premiums necessary to maintain health insurance and life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage of its workers.
In the letter to its employees last week, Baha Mar president Graeme Davis said that the resort’s delayed reopening was one of the “most difficult decisions” resort officials have had to make in the property’s relatively young history.
“In March, we committed to support you as best we can for up to 90 days,” the letter read. “As we near the end of this 90-day period, we will be making additional staffing reductions to align staffing levels with projected business volume upon reopening. At the end of June, we will communicate to the individuals being impacted by the staffing reduction to discuss what we will do to support and assist you in making your transition as smooth as possible. We look forward to bringing as many of you back as possible, once our business returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.”
When contacted for comment, Director of Labour John Pinder told The Tribune that Baha Mar’s delayed reopening was partially due to low booking rates.
“The only thing I can say is we were hoping that when the government gave the first 30-day extension, that that would have put Baha Mar in some position to start to position themselves to reopen,” he said.
“I guess that wasn’t sufficient time, because from what I’ve heard from them, they don’t have any bookings. And so they had to make a decision to delay their opening until October when they have some bookings.”
Mr Pinder said the “most important thing” the resort could do was make sure current staff members are “retrained to be rehired” once they reopen.
“At this time they don’t have any bookings,” he continued. “The hotel depends on tourists to come and do business with them (so) I guess as soon as the United States opens up for more airlines to start coming back to the Bahamas, and the Bahamas opens up once we put the necessary protocols in place, (things will start to pick up).
“The government is working on putting certain protocols in place so that we can start to receive tourists so that people can get back to work and the economy can get jump started again,” Mr Pinder assured.
In the meantime, the labour director said people who may be affected by the layoffs should continue to “sharpen their skills” to increase their chances of finding employment.
“To those persons who may find themselves in a further laid-off position, try the best you can to utilise your time to make sure you keep up to date with what’s happening in the economy, because there might be some opportunities you can embrace to keep money in your pocket. And if you have to switch careers at this time, just to find something to ensure that you have employment, then maybe some short online courses or some certification (can help you).”
Last week, Sandals announced its Royal Bahamian property in Nassau would not reopen until November, although its Exuma property is scheduled to reopen next month. Mega resort Atlantis on Paradise Island is also set for a July reopening.
The country will reopen for commercial international travel on July 1.