Sandals Resorts International said that it would take the opportunity of its resorts closing to undertake refurbishment work.
The chain was closing all Sandals and Beaches Resorts from 30 March to 15 May to protect guests and staff from the coronavirus outbreak.
Sandals founder & chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart said that the group would use the time to make enhancements to its resorts, “so that we will continue to surpass your expectations and provide you with the luxury-included vacation you so well deserve. Therefore, we will not be able to accept new arrivals as of 23rd March. We also want to alleviate any additional worry you might have about your upcoming vacation.
“Our dedicated team will be reaching out to you personally to assist with rescheduling your future plans. This way, you can spend less time trying to reach us and more time with your loved ones.
The Caribbean is resilient. We have always come back better, stronger and more passionate than ever. We promise this time will be no exception.
“When the time is right, you can trust us to be here, ready to welcome you back with open arms and a warm smile. Soon come back.”
RIU Resorts had already announced the closure of three of its Jamaican properties, commenting: “We are facing an unprecedented situation that requires us to take exceptional measures. Our business model, based on hotel ownership and direct management of our operations, allows us to have the agility to take the actions required by the current situation”.
Iberostar has also closed several of its properties in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, with an expected reopening date of 1 May.
As of 24 March, Jamaica’s air and seaports will be temporarily closed to incoming passengers, to try to limit the spread of the virus.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has been working with the minister of finance on a financial package for the affected tourism workers. He said: “I know that this is a difficult time as we all grapple with the threat of this new global pandemic, COVID-19. As we navigate these uncharted waters, I want you to know that we are working assiduously to cushion the impact that it will have on you and your livelihoods.”
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association said: “We demonstrated this post 9-11, through Sars, Zika, hurricanes and other natural disasters over the past two decades, all while experiencing unprecedented growth. Despite the temporary dark clouds, the sun shines in the Caribbean and will continue to do so. As we come through this, the world will need the Caribbean to help it to heal.”
Elsewhere in the resort market, all hotels in Spain had been ordered to close from Thursday 26th March until at least 31 March, as the result of a government decree, with the state of emergency then being extended for a further two weeks. The measure did not apply to long-term accommodation where guests can cater for themselves - as long as they can obey quarantine rules.
In Madrid health authorities were converting hotels into medical care facilities to treat people with mild cases of coronavirus in a bid to ease pressure on hospitals.
The country’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, announced a €200bn package of measures to provide companies with, he said, “all the liquidity they need,” with €100bn made available to businesses in the form of public guarantees. In addition, workers will be able to receive unemployment benefits even if they have not paid enough in social security contributions, and companies will not have to pay taxes for employees who have been temporarily made redundant.
Insight: The story is the same across the resort market, even in areas which have yet to go down Spain’s path, as the supply of leisure travellers dries up entirely. In Spain hoteliers are busy mothballing those properties which are not being used as hospitals, a move which is largely one for the urban market with the exception of a resort in the Maldives being turned into a quarantine zone.
The hope, as with all hotels being shuttered now, is that it is closed, but not closed down. Once demand returns, they want to be able to fling those shutters up and get guests straight in, so think like the tortoise being put away for winter: it must be put away in good health if it’s going to be straight back out in the sun come spring.
At Sandals, the group has decided to take the downtime to do some work which will help it compete all the better when it comes to that pent-up demand everyone is anticipating. To do that, it needs resources. For those looking to invest in hotels - pretty much everyone at this point - there are deals to be done and a chance to refurbish, rebadge, renew. But no matter how deep the pockets, government support is needed to maintain staffing. Support which is starting to come through.