The Cayman Islands Government has stepped up our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic by announcing the closure of our airports to all international commercial flights from Sunday, 22 March for three weeks. Alongside the suspension of all cruise ships, this means our tourism industry is effectively at a standstill.
We are in full alignment with Government that our top priority must be the health and safety of our community and have been working closely with our partners in the tourism industry over the past few days on how to respond to this unprecedented situation. Like many countries whose economy depends on tourism, there are no easy answers.
In line with the closure of Owen Roberts International Airport, the hotels in our hospitality portfolio: Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Grand Cayman Comfort Suites will temporarily close from Monday 23 March for three weeks. Guests have been notified and teams are supporting visitors on-island with travel arrangements. The hotels will make preparations to reopen once international airlift resumes. Our immediate priority is the well-being of our dedicated- employees whose livelihoods have been overturned in such an unexpected and sudden way. Senior management at each hotel has met with staff to share the details of the closure.
Dart has committed to paying all employees throughout this period and will continue to make financial provisions for staff who are unable to work in the weeks to come. We have offered work permit holders the option to accept voluntary severance packages, including financial assistance with airfares to return to their home countries. We will do all that we can to provide practical and compassionate support to our hotel colleagues during this difficult time.
The 2020 season was off to a great start, and it is devastating to see it cut short by such uncontrollable, external forces. However, despite uncertain times ahead, we are confident the Cayman Islands will return to its place as the foremost destination in the Caribbean once this crisis passes, as it undoubtedly will.
“With a substantial investment across the tourism industry, we appreciate the human and economic hardship our islands are experiencing. We will always put our people and community first,” said Dart CEO Mark VanDevelde. “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 twenty-five years, Dart remains committed, through good times and bad, to the continued health and prosperity of our islands. We are in this together.”