In unprecedented acts as a result of the global spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), major hotels in The Bahamas have announced closures and the temporary layoffs of thousands of hotel workers.
Atlantis Paradise Island, which has a staff count of more than 7,000, advised workers on Saturday that they will be temporarily laid off for four weeks. It is unclear how many of those workers are being impacted.
Baha Mar on West Bay Street announced in a letter to staff on the same day that the property will close on March 25 at 3 p.m., until further notice.
Melia Nassau Beach will also close on the same date until further notice. The Baha Mar and Melia layoff exercises impact 6,500 workers, The Nassau Guardian understands.
A similar announcement was made by Sandals, which has a property on Cable Beach and another in Exuma.
All Sandals resorts will be closed from March 30 to May 15, 2020, founder and Chairman of Sandals & Beaches Resorts Gordon “Butch” Stewart announced. Beaches properties in the region are also closing.
While Atlantis — the nation’s largest private employer — would not say exactly how many people will be affected by its closure, an Atlantis spokesperson said, “The layoff affects every department. As business levels begin to increase, team members will be called back to work. We have no further comments.”
Atlantis’ notice to affected employees notes: “Due to the recent announcement by the government of The Bahamas and the economic impact of COVID-19, some of our operations have been further impacted. As a result of this, your position will be affected. Commencing today you will be temporarily laid off for a period of four weeks.
“We understand the bearing this will have on you during this period and you are assured of our commitment to support you as we navigate through these uncertain times.”
Both Melia and Baha Mar assured their employees that they will be paid 40 percent of their salaries during the closure and that their benefits packages will be kept up to date.
Baha Mar President Graeme Davis suggested in a letter that the resort’s plan to help affected staff is for up to 90 days.
Baha Mar and the neighboring Melia property are under the same ownership.
Melia General Manager Daniel Lozano advised in a letter to staff on Saturday that Melia will continue to pay insurance premiums and will work to ensure that all non-union, full-time workers receive up to 40 percent of their base pay as of March 26.
The hotel also committed to work with representatives of unionized workers with respect to the benefits available to them.
Resorts World Bimini told guests in a statement that its closure took effect on Friday.
Missy Lawrence, resort president, said the property will notify on an opening date, when it is clear when guests can be welcomed back.
“Please know that during these times, we remain committed to providing our future guests with a safe, friendly, welcoming environment that’s expected from Resorts World,” the president said.
“We can’t wait until this is all behind us and we can welcome you back to our Bimini Paradise. In the meantime, thank you for your loyalty and understanding.”
Sandals said in its statement that the well-being of its 15,000 team members is important and thus is at the center of its decision to close its resorts.
Jamaica, where the bulk of Sandals and Beaches resorts are located, has 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Barbados has 14 cases and The Bahamas has four cases.
Sandals said it will provide its employees with “two weeks paid vacation, care packages of household staples and supplies and for the duration of our temporary closure, we will maintain partial salaries and retention of established benefits”.
“Our Sandals Foundation will also be continuing to support team members through various community programs where they reside,” Sandals’ statement noted.
“After nearly 40 years of operations, we are prepared for many kinds of disruptions and remain optimistic about the future. The resilience of the Caribbean is well known and we look forward to welcoming guests and team members back with open arms very soon.”
While there is no real indication of how long the stagnation in tourism will carry on in The Bahamas, throughout the region and the world, resort executives and owners remain hopeful.
“The weeks ahead are sure to be trying, but we look forward with hope and anticipation to a time when we will welcome our guests and associates back to our property for the spectacular experience we are known for around the world,” stated Davis, who also noted that Baha Mar has experienced “remarkable success thanks to our incomparable staff” in the almost three years since it opened its doors.