As COVID-19 continues to devastate the global travel industry, it has become clear there will be an extended period of time before we can expect visitors to start returning to the Cayman Islands. The Government has indicated that Cayman’s borders will remain closed for several months and that tourism is unlikely to pick up much before the end of the year. Businesses are advised to plan accordingly.
For the hotels in Dart’s hospitality portfolio, we are faced with some difficult decisions. When our properties closed to guests in March, we had hoped our commitment to continue to pay employees for 10 weeks would be enough to weather the storm. Unfortunately, it now seems the hotels will be closed for a significantly longer period of time.
In response to this extended closure, Dart is working with hotel partners at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa to adjust employment arrangements after the initial 10-week 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 on 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 hotel reopens.
Comfort Suites remains an isolation facility for returning residents, as requested by the Cayman Islands Government. The Comfort Suites franchise expires in August and, subject to Government regulations, the hotel will begin extensive renovations next month, including improvements to guest rooms, the pool area and restaurant. Renovations are expected to be complete in early December, which we hope will coincide with a reopening for the 2021 high season. As a result, the approach to the staff at Comfort Suites is different. Instead of a leave of absence, we are providing comprehensive severance packages which include full payment of health insurance premiums through year-end. Employees are encouraged to apply 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.”
For media enquiries, please contact Susanna de Saram, Senior Manager Public Relations at Dart.