Club Med worker laments resort’s closure

As Club Med Columbus Isle on San Salvador said goodbye to its last guest on Saturday before suspending its operations until May, San Salvadorian Rennard Storr told The Nassau Guardian of the somber mood some impacted guests and residents were feeling.

Storr has been an employee at Club Med for over 20 years.

“Well, you know, it’s kind of a shocker to the world…,” he said.

“Club Med is the biggest employer on the island and they did well over the years for the people of the island.”

Storr added, “Definitely persons are going to miss the direct jobs so far, but you know there’s really nothing you can do because the world is shut down.”

There have been four confirmed cases of the highly contagious disease in The Bahamas.

In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, the government has implemented measures including a travel ban on all non-Bahamian residents traveling from China, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Iran and South Korea.

With no tourists coming in, Club Med Columbus Isle became one of many hotels across the archipelago that have scaled back operations due to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The hotel said it will temporarily suspend operations between March 21 and May 1.

Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) President Darrin Woods suggested the closure could last longer depending on whether travel restrictions are extended past May.

Describing the closure as “unexpected”, he said Club Med employees were trying to make the best of the situation.

“Well, we spoke to them,” Woods said.

“I have a team up there now. I spoke to them on, I think it would have been, Thursday; and I mean everyone understands.

“This is not something that anyone was expecting, kind of. So based on what is forced on us, we just have to try to manage it as best we can.”

The hotel will keep “a skeleton crew to wind down and clean up” and then a few other employees “working to ensure that the Club is protected and…working to keep whatever equipment up and running”, according to Woods.

“But the rest of the employees would in fact be temporarily laid off,” Woods said.

He added, “They would be given letters to be able to go to NIB (the National Insurance Board), but we are working with, of course, the government, the employer and the union to see what type of relief that we could put in place as quickly as we can for those workers.”

Woods said officials are trying to get that assistance sorted out within a “two to two-and-a-half-week window”, as workers have their last pay period this week.

Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip Brave Davis noted residents are “definitely” concerned about the economic impact of the resort’s closure.

He called the situation “regrettable”, but also highlighted the importance of containing COVID-19.

“It’s regrettable in all the circumstances, but the majority of the visitors are from Europe and…a number of the countries from where the force of the visitors are from are infected places; and so it is prudent, and they appreciate the prudence, to at least have a containment by closing down and not allowing visitors to come until this thing blows over,” Davis told The Guardian.

But he added that he is hoping the resort can reopen soon as “a prolonged situation will only further exacerbate the concerns I have about it, even in the short-term”.

“But let’s hope and pray that this goes away very soon…and for it to end as soon as possible,” Davis said.

His sentiments were echoed by Storr, who said San Salvadorians “are hoping and we are praying and trusting in God that all goes well and it’s not too long, that everything comes back to normal”.

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