The news about the Melia Nassau Beach Resort could hardly be worse – it will close down for two years.
The resort’s general manager yesterday said the resort would undergo renovations, “setting the stage for the successful opening of a brand-new resort”, but this is not some resort that is creaking at aged seams in dire need of a renovation. This is a shutdown until the far side of the COVID crisis – and it leaves more than 300 people without a job.
Those losing their jobs were told that they would “be given every consideration and opportunity for employment” when the resort reopens – but the reality is that people cannot wait two years and the resort will largely be starting from scratch on recruitment when it opens its doors again, if that even happens.
Those workers will have mortgages and rent to pay, school fees to pay, bills to keep their power on and food in the cupboard, and comes on top of being on reduced pay while on furlough. These employees are out in the cold, and there aren’t enough jobs coming back online in other resorts yet to give them the opportunities they need.
Melia itself might not even be returning, with Baha Mar chief Graeme Davis saying that “no decision has been made” on whether the Melia brand or its all-inclusive model would be retained after the renovation.
In short, the future is up for grabs at Melia – but that leaves employees out in the cold.
The news comes against a backdrop of confusion from government officials over the state of unemployment in the country – with PLP chairman correctly pointing out the contradiction between Labour Director John Pinder estimating the unemployment rate at around 40 percent and Labour Minister saying that the unemployment rate has come down “drastically” recently.
Mr Mitchell said the government must come clean on the unemployment rate – and he’s right. Hiding from the true number doesn’t help anyone.
It is hard to see the Melia news as anything other than throwing the towel in until the tourism economy starts to build again. Executives will have done the maths, seen how much money is coming in, seen how much money is going out and decided it is best to close it all down and start afresh when the pandemic has ebbed. It is a private business, and that’s their prerogative – the nation doesn’t have that option of skipping out and waiting for better times.
We need to know the real state of the nation – and we need to do our best to help all those in need get through it.
Jayah’s an inspiration
For those looking for a ray of light amid these dark times, we suggest you turn to the story of Karajayah Forbes-Schlagenhauf on page eight today.
Jayah, as he is known, had a tough start to life. He was separated from his family at the age of four and spent time in children’s homes. Sometimes he would spend his days crying at the homes as he dreamed of a better life that must have seemed impossible to reach.
But then came the change that has turned a life of adversity into a path of opportunity. He met Beat Schlagenhauf, an investment banker with clients in Lyford Cay, and Mr Schlagenhauf started to help Jayah and his family. At the time, he was living with his father and his siblings in a place with no light, no water and very little furniture.
When Jayah’s father left for the Turks and Caicos and left the children behind, Mr Schlagenhauf continued to help – and adopted the youngest two, including Jayah.
Jayah has now made a landmark of his own, becoming the first black head boy at St Leonard’s boarding school in Scotland.
In this column in recent times, we have written of the difficulties facing children who struggle to come out of school with basic skills. We have also written of the gang member who went to private schools and yet ended up in a life of crime. Each of those is a story of lost potential. In Jayah, we see the reverse – a child who faced the bleakest of futures, now living up to the potential he had inside him all along.
His sights are set on becoming Prime Minister one day, and who would bet against him?
Would that all our children were given the opportunity to live up to their potential. The Bahamas might one day need Jayah as a leader of the nation, but right now Jayah can be its inspiration. We need more like him.