By Carlena Knight
As residents process the news that the local tourism industry will be opening up in a few weeks, one hotelier is adamant that the entire sector, especially hotels, guest houses and other related businesses, will have to readjust to a new normal.
Rufus Gobat, owner and developer of Tamarind Hills, is of the opinion that although the focus will be mainly on ensuring the health and safety of tourists, a lot more creative thinking will be needed to address other matters.
“No one knows what the new normal will be, but certainly traditional check-ins, the dining experiences, will have to be changed and managed. You know the days of long queues and crowded buffets, I think, in the short and medium term, are a thing of the past,” he said.
“Spa experiences, entertainment will have to change, packed dance floors, you know we are really going to have to be very clever and think outside the box for our guests. Incoming guests are going to expect a completely new set of standards and protocols and we have to get that message out as to what we are doing and how we are doing it better than the competition,” he said.
He added that although he believes the sector’s rebound will be long-term for the country, small businesses will benefit first.
“The smaller properties, I believe, will come back quicker because the whole industry is changing, expectations are changing from clients and when we do rebound, clients will be looking for a much more personal life experience.
“They are going to be wanting more space, all of which benefit smaller, more independent businesses. I think they will rebound quicker than larger institutions that will take more time to get the staff back together, to get the systems going again so there is positivity for the smaller properties for sure,” he added.
Local businessman Derek Barrett shared similar sentiments in relation to small businesses and even went a step further in stating that the focus should now be placed upon expanding those businesses instead of the large hotels.
“In my view, these large hotels are not the answer. The answers are small boutiques, expanding the breakfast and bed type markets, and explore new possibilities within the yachting industry and then look at other tourist-type businesses like medical tourism.
“I mean this is a huge business and I think Antigua’s well placed for getting involved in that type of tourism but you know we have to think outside of the box.”
Already, there have been reports of one popular resort, the Hammock Cove Resort and Spa, putting measures in place such as providing guests with face masks and disinfectant kits in their rooms and socially-distanced dining.
Resort manager Rosario Soler said facilities will be in place for employees to change into their uniforms upon arrival to work, and shower upon leaving.