Cayman’s major hotels are shutting their doors, mirroring the three-week closure of the airport to passenger travel.
Several hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; Kimpton Seafire; Westin Grand Cayman; and Grand Cayman Marriott Beach, confirmed they would shut once air travel in and out of the Cayman Islands ceases on Sunday night, 22 March.
The move impacts hundreds, if not thousands, of workers throughout the industry.
However, most of the major hotels have agreed to continue paying their staff base wages through the closure.
Dart Enterprises announced Tuesday that it would be closing all three hotels in its hospitality portfolio – the Kimpton, Ritz-Carlton and Comfort Suites – for three weeks. Collectively, the three hotels employ more than 1,400 people.
Dart will continue to pay all employees during the closure and will make “financial provisions” for staff unable to work in the weeks to come, the company said in a statement to the Cayman Compass. Work permit holders have been offered the option of voluntary severance packages, including financial assistance with airfares to return to their home countries.
Dart Enterprises CEO Mark VanDevelde said the company had made a substantial investment across the tourism industry and was determined to play its part in surviving the crisis and helping the country rebuild.
“We appreciate the human and economic hardship our islands are experiencing. We will always put our people and community first,” he said.
“Hotels are economic engines and large employers, contributing to the Cayman Islands’ success and growth over the past few years. As we have been for over 25 years, Dart remains committed, through good times and bad, to the continued health and prosperity of our islands. We are in this together.”
Guests have been notified of the closures and staff are supporting visitors on-island with travel arrangements. The hotels will be making preparations to reopen once international airlift resumes, the statement said.
Dart added that it was in full agreement with government’s decision.
Jim Mauer, managing director of the Westin and Sunshine Suites, said both venues would close Sunday and reopen a few days after the airport is scheduled to accept incoming passenger flights.
“Our first priority is our staff,” he said. “They are the best asset that we have.”
He said all staff would be paid at close to full rate while the hotel was closed. He said Cayman’s “unprecedented success” over the past 28 months enabled the hotel to look after its staff during the closure – even without any passengers coming in.
With 14-day isolation rules in place for arriving travellers in Cayman and in many of their home countries, he said it was not an option for overseas staff to return home and wait for normalcy to resume.
Mauer backed Premier Alden McLaughlin’s decision to shut down travel and said it was vital that Cayman contained the virus and came back stronger than ever.
He said the hotel would be refunding all guests that had vacations cancelled, though he noted many were opting to rebook for later in the summer.
He added that it was important to do the right thing by guests who had lost vacations in order to protect the reputation of the destination.
McLaughlin made similar comments as he announced the air travel closure Monday.
“Refund those deposits,” he said. “This will not last forever.”
The Marriott will close for 28 days from Sunday.
“As the airport closure has a direct impact on our business and in the interest and wellbeing of our staff members, international guests and local clientele, we feel that this decision is the best approach. We have informed our staff members and continue to communicate to our guests in regards to this fluid situation,” the resort said in an emailed response to the Compass.
The Cayman Turtle Centre is also closing its doors to the public.
Renee Howell, chief marketing and merchandising officer, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to spruce up the centre, take inventory and get a lot of our ‘to-do’ list items checked off that we can’t normally get done in the busy season when guests are present. We will endeavour to keep all our staff employed and fully occupied during this time.”
Red Sail Sports, which has watersports outlets across the island, also announced an initial 30-day closure via its social media page.