By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
San Salvador's economy was last night facing a month-long shutdown after Club Med yesterday confirmed its Columbus Isle resort will close from this coming Saturday until April 26.
A representative for the resort chain, which is owned by the Chinese conglomerate, Fosun, confirmed that the government's decision to block entry to foreign nationals who have visited the UK, Ireland and Europe made the "temporary" closure inevitable given that these are the markets from which Columbus Isle draws the majority of its visitors.
"In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus, on March 16, 2020 the Ministry of Tourism announced entry restrictions to the country, limiting entry to The Bahamas from foreign nationals who have visited the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe," the representative said in an e-mail to Tribune Business.
"As part of our continued commitment to the health, safety and security of our guests and employees, we have decided to temporarily suspend the operations of Club Med Columbus Isle between March 21 and April 26, 2020."
Much of the airlift servicing Club Med's San Salvador property originates from Europe, and especially markets such as France and Italy, which have been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the new "epicentre" of the global pandemic.
Darrin Woods, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union's (BHCAWU) president, told Tribune Business that between 150 to 180 employees would be directly impacted by Club Med's move. He suggested the consequences for the island's wider economy would be even more profound given that the resort is its major employer and centre of all economic activity.
"We just got word that Club Med on San Salvador is being closed temporarily as of this week because the jets come from France and Europe," Mr Woods said. "We have a conference call with them tomorrow [today] as to what they expect to happen.
"That affects between 150 to 180 persons because Club Med is the major employer on the island. They pretty much employ everyone on that island. It's going to impact everybody on that island. Only about 10 percent of their guests come from the US and other places."
Club Med's imminent closure shows just how dynamic and fluid the coronavirus situation is, and how rapidly a business can be forced to adjust its business plans. The resort chain just last Friday told this newspaper that it intended to keep its Columbus Isle property, and all other resorts in the Americas, open despite the Trump administration imposing a ban on all travel from Europe.