Empty deckchairs at the Kimpton Seafire hotel lie empty.
Staff at the Kimpton Seafire Resort are among those offered leaves of absence.

Hundreds of staff at hotels owned by Dart Enterprises are being offered temporary leaves of absence, or in some cases being laid off, as the economic crisis facing the tourism industry deepens.

In a statement Thursday, Dart said it had hoped its commitment to cover 10 weeks’ pay for staff at its three major hotel properties would have been enough to weather the storm.

But government has now indicated that Cayman’s borders could be closed for several more months and that tourism is unlikely to pick up before the end of the year.

Dart’s hotels – the Comfort Suites, The Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – have been shuttered since early March.

Dart said in the statement that it was working with the Ritz and Kimpton hotels to “adjust employment arrangements” after the initial 10-week pay period ends in May.

“We are offering a voluntary leave of absence with paid return flights to employees from overseas who are able to return to their home countries.

“For those without that option, we have agreed a relief pay package for June that includes minimum wage, health insurance paid in full and two daily meals, to be reviewed on a monthly basis until the hotels reopen,” the statement said.

Empty seats around the Ritz Cartlon pool. The hotel’s staff are being offered temporary leaves of absence amid uncertainty over when Cayman’s borders will reopen.

For staff at the Comfort Suites, the picture is slightly different. The hotel is currently being used as an isolation facility for returning residents.

The Comfort Suites franchise runs out in August, and Dart is planning extensive renovations with a view to reopening with a new look for the 2021 high season.

Dart said staff are being offered comprehensive severance packages, with full health insurance through the end of the year, and will be encouraged to apply for jobs once the new management company begins recruitment.

“There are no easy solutions to the deep and complex issues facing the tourism industry, both here in Cayman and in our main overseas markets,” said Dart CEO Mark VanDevelde.

“We recognise how difficult this is for the hard-working individuals whose livelihoods depend on international visitors being able to travel.

“We hope these packages help reduce financial hardships to a degree, and we will offer practical support wherever we can. We look forward to the day when our borders re-open and we can extend our hospitality to guests from overseas once again.”

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