Ritz-Carlton braces for possibility of lengthy shutdown

Ritz Carlton manager Marc Langevin
Ritz-Carlton general manager Marc Langevin - Photo: Alvaro Serey

Leaders of Cayman’s biggest resort are preparing for the possibility that the island could be closed to tourists for several months.

Marc Langevin, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, said he was planning for various scenarios, including the potential for tourism to be shut down for the rest of the year.

The Dart group, which owns the hotel, has guaranteed salaries for staff through to the end of May.

Langevin said discussions were continuing with the ownership over a longer-term plan, but he acknowledged the crisis had escalated rapidly.

“Dart made a very generous package to ensure we could go through the first stage,” he said.

“Clearly, the game has changed and right now we are preparing for different scenarios.”

The hotel is offering resignation packages to staff who want to leave and is providing support for them to return to their home countries.

“The first thing to do is for anyone that wants to go home, to facilitate that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Langevin said, he is constantly following the news updates and drawing up plans for how the hotel and the tourism industry in general comes out the other side of the crisis.

He expects the island to be under curfew measures at least through the end of April. After that, if the virus is contained or eradicated in Cayman, he hopes there can be some reopening of the domestic economy.

He said the hotel could put some people back to work at that stage by reopening the restaurants and spa and offering staycation deals for people who have been under lockdown for many weeks.

But he said the great uncertainty causing sleepless nights for everyone in the tourism industry was if and when it would be safe to reopen the airport.

“Clearly, there is no way we can reopen right now,” he said.

“We know the US is going through a huge crisis and it will be that way for at least six to eight weeks.”

Whenever Cayman does choose to reopen to the outside world, he believes it will necessarily involve some calculated risk.

“We cannot wait for the world to be perfect before we reopen for business. If we are waiting for the world to be COVID free, it could be a year or two.”

He said the advent of a vaccine or on-the-spot testing could provide a breakthrough that allowed the island to reopen. Equally, he said, Cayman could look to build up its healthcare resources to be able to cope with an outbreak – in the event that COVID-19 remains a global phenomenon for several years.

“Whatever happens locally and globally, we need to be ready,” he said of the resort.

“I am working every day to ensure we are ready for different eventualities.”

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