The Westin resort has laid off just over half of its staff amid the continued impact of the coronavirus on tourism in the Cayman Islands.
The Seven Mile Beach hotel has not reopened since the borders closed in March.
Until this month it had kept all of its staff on the payroll.
But with no guests expected over Christmas and no significant return of tourism anticipated during the winter high season, managing director Jim Mauer said it was impossible to continue to maintain full staffing.
Just over 100 people, both Caymanians and work-permit holders, have been let go.
Mauer said the hotel was committed to rehiring those staff as soon as it became financially feasible.
“We have stood by our staff for seven months but as we approach the year end it takes its toll. We need to make sure we are still here in the future,” he said.
“Our staff are our most important asset and we took this decision with a heavy heart. It was a financial decision… We did everything we could to stave this off.”
Mauer said the business had been going month-to-month trying to reopen, taking bookings and cancelling them as the expectations around the border situation changed.
He said he understood the government’s stance and was not seeking to blame anyone for the hotel’s situation.
But with no prospect of income over what is traditionally the busiest period of the year, he said the business had been forced to take a “longer-term approach”.
He believes the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine is a sign that the end is in sight for the pandemic.
And he said the hotel had retained a core staff and would be able to reopen to a reduced number of visitors if and when a protocol for arrivals is announced.
He believes there is significant pent-up demand for travel to the Cayman Islands and had hoped to be ready for a “v-shaped” recovery when the borders reopened.
With full staff he said the hotel had been “locked and loaded”, ready for tourism to return.
“Unfortunately we did not quite get there,” he said.
The layoffs mean it will now take longer for the hotel to ramp up for anything close to full occupancy.
“Any volume is good because it would be a crack of light in the door, but we will have to rebuild to handle high volume,” he said.
“Once we do reopen my goal is to welcome all of our people back as soon as we can.”
Despite the timing of the decision, he said staff had understood the reasons behind it and had indicated they were grateful that the hotel had paid them for seven months despite the absence of any business.
The Sunshine Suites, for which Mauer is also the managing director, remains open as a quarantine facility and some of the Westin’s restaurants, including the Tortuga Beach Bar and Grill, are open to the public and for Christmas events.
The Westin’s decision follows the announcement of the Dart group in September that it was scaling back operations at The Ritz-Carlton and Kimpton hotels, laying off more than 400 employees.