By Machela Osagboro
Hoteliers are being forced to adjust their schedules and cut staff’s working hours as they struggle to deal with mass cancellations.
Many visitors from the United States and Europe have cancelled trips and it is reported that there are limited new future bookings due to the presence of COVID-19 in Antigua and Barbuda.
Vernon Jeffers, chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA), said small and large properties alike are suffering great losses.
“On an average basis, I don’t think there are any properties that is losing less than 50-100 rooms per night and that is for the smaller properties, with the larger properties losing upwards of 500 per night. The cancellations for most hotels right now are greater than the incoming bookings,” he said.
“Across the board you are seeing persons having to adjust their schedules,” he continued, adding that staff are now working 20-24 hours per week instead of their usual 40-hour week.
The ABHTA chairman said that with these drastic changes coming in the early days of the outbreak, the country will have to brace for the worse if the situation continues to worsen.
Other hotels such as Galley Bay Resort have made significant reductions to staff hours. However, the general manager of Starfish Halcyon, Arlene Marsh, said that “we are not getting cancellations in great numbers at this time, but we anticipate that it will get worse. So just like every other hotel we will have to downsize based on the occupancy”.
While many visitors are cancelling bookings, the air and sea ports remain open because, according to CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin James, “we are continually making sure that we can engage with the trade, continually improve the product that we have, so that when we have the bounce-back, we are in a position to take the advantage”.
Many other Caribbean countries have closed their borders to contain the spread of the virus while some airlines have been grounded and advisories against public gatherings have been issued.