More than 200 workers of the Verandah Resort & Spa, which is located in the Long Bay area, will be feeling the pinch when the hotel temporarily closes from the end of next month.
The prominent hotel is one of four properties that form Elite Island Resorts Antigua, and the Chairman, Rob Barrett, has blamed high operating costs for the decision that will see the closure of the hotel from August 30th to October 13th 2017.
In a June 30th letter addressed to David Massiah, the general secretary of the workers’ bargaining agent — the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) — the resort highlighted that it was “currently experiencing some very trying times in our industry” and that it has exhausted all options including the reduction of its room rates in an effort to attract customers.
It added that it had not “generated enough advanced bookings for the months of September and October” to meet its anticipated financial obligations.
The letter, signed by the resort’s Human Resources Administrator, Michele Mings, also expressed the company’s regret for the inconvenience to staff who will be affected as a result of the closure, which it said was the only course of action available to management at this time.
During an interview with OBSERVER media, Barrett said that tourists are choosing less expensive destinations than Antigua & Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean to spend their vacations.
“If you take a look at the UK, tourism to the Caribbean is twice as expensive as it is to a lot of other areas of the world.
The real problem is that we are in a very high cost of operating. The minimum wage here is about 50 per cent higher than that of St Lucia. We have a very high cost within the labour, goods, utilities; we have a $75 charge when you land at the airport and what about the airfares?
“I had a family of four that has been coming to Antigua for 15 years but now they will be going to Cyprus. They can fly from London to Cyprus and stay there for two weeks for the same price of the airfare from London to Antigua. Do you think the union or the workers are going to take a 50 per cent pay cut? I don’t think so.
Do you think the Antigua Public Utilities Authority is going to drop the electricity bill by 50 per cent? I don’t think so,” the hotelier said.
He suggested that the only way the twin island state will see an improvement in tourism is to offer a better product and to prove to potential visitors that Antigua & Barbuda is a better destination than its competitors, because competing on price is no longer an option.
Meantime, the Deputy General Secretary of the AWU, Chester Hughes said the union will be working with the resort to see what other options would be open to alleviate the distress to those employees who will be displaced.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)