Caribbean defiance!

The March 4, 2021 reopening of Beaches Ocho Rios, the last of the Sandals resorts to roar back to life in Jamaica, has sparked hope for the revival of tourism, in Caribbean defiance of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Reopening of the doors of Sandals and Beaches resorts typically sends ripples across the economy by putting thousands of workers back on the job and stimulating ground transportation, agricultural, manufacturing, and other industries that have vital linkages with tourism.

“Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is once again leading the charge, as hotel bookings continue to climb and team members return to work to enable them to take care of their families and reverse the painful fallout from COVID-19,” said SRI Executive Chairman Adam Stewart.

“The nimbleness displayed by Sandals has been buttressed by the extensive measures and protocols instituted to keep staff and guests safe from COVID-19, bringing back confidence in not just our resorts but throughout the tourism sector,” Stewart suggested.

“Our team members must also be commended for their efforts, from developing these industry-leading protocols to also implementing and living them each day. They have been true stalwarts and I am happy to see them getting back to work.”

Stewart said Sandals had always been cognisant of the crucial role of tourism in Jamaica’s economic recovery and the resort’s own contribution as the largest private employer, foreign exchange earner, taxpayer, and promoter in most of the islands of the Caribbean where SRI operates.

As if he overheard Stewart, Finance Minister Nigel Clarke reported last Monday that foreign exchange inflows from tourism were expected to fall by 74 per cent for the 2020/21 fiscal year, or a US$2.5 billion decline, saying it had setback Jamaica by 30 years.

Clarke said that the pandemic has decimated foreign exchange inflows into Jamaica, particularly in the tourism sector and the Government’s revenue intake was expected to take a projected $70-billion hit this fiscal year.

The 100,000 jobs added between 2015 and 2020 were lost in the first four months, following the arrival of COVID-19 on Jamaica’s shores, representing a devastating 130,000 jobs lost overall, he bemoaned.

By being bold Sandals is on the fast track and leading the charge by calling back 80 per cent, or 12,0000 team members, with the aim of achieving its full staff complement back on the job in short order, as resort occupancy levels continue to rise.

“Full employment is expected as traveller confidence continues to grow and the occupancies increase as they have been doing, and all things being equal — vaccines on stream, no further outbreaks, and the like,” said Stewart.

SRI, which employs over 15,000 team members, reopened its Jamaica resorts starting with Sandals Montego Bay and Beaches Negril on June 16, 2020, followed by Sandals Royal Caribbean on July 2, 2020, Sandals Negril – July 9, 2020; Sandals South Coast – October 1, 2020; Sandals Royal Plantation – October 8, 2020; Sandals Ochi Beach Resort – February 3, 2021; and Beaches Ocho Rios – March 4, 2021.

Its Grand Pineapple Negril resort is still closed, but staff are engaged at other resorts.

The other island resorts reopened as follows: Sandals Grande Antigua – June 4, 2020; Sandals Grande St Lucian – July 9, 2020; Sandals Regency La Toc – August 31, 2020; Beaches Turks & Caicos – December 21, 2020; Sandals Halcyon – February 3, 2021 and Sandals Emerald Bay on February 24.

Sandals Barbados, which opened September 2020 and Sandals Grenada on October 1, 2020 are again closed. They are projected to reopen on April 2, 2021 and March 31, respectively. Sandals Royal Bahamian remained closed throughout the pandemic with an anticipated reopening for May 2021.

The reopening of Beaches Ocho Rios set off celebrations among Sandals employees Caribbean-wide, after one of the most difficult years since the resorts first opened in 1981. But the downtime was used to prepare for more spectacular offerings.

“Globally, people have been through a lot over the past year. From navigating virtual school and work simultaneously to being away from loved ones, the Beaches team is here to give visiting families the vacation they have been dreaming of,” said Stewart.

“With both vaccinations and confidence in travel trending upward, families can now choose among three Beaches Resorts in the region — two of which are in Jamaica — which all feature the highest levels of health and safety, and all of the activities and amenities that make for an unforgettable vacation experience.”

Boasting 222 rooms and suites, Beaches Ocho Rios is touted as “the perfect getaway for families of all generations, and groups of friends alike, looking to make up for lost time and relax, knowing that their priorities in health and safety are taken care of”.


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