Several of Grenada’s top hoteliers will hold a meeting on Sunday in an attempt to pressure the island’s government to move faster with the re-opening of the local economy so that more hotels can resume business.
An industry source told THE NEW TODAY that the operators of Sandals La Source in the south of the island are behind the meeting that will attract some major hotel operators and at least two government ministers.
This newspaper understands that the Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele, as well as Tourism & Civil Aviation Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen and Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles have been specially invited to attend the meeting.
The source said the session is coming at a time when hoteliers are showing signs of greater frustration over the fact that the health protocols imposed by government in the fight against the coronavirus have forced many of them to remain closed for the past six months.
He described Sunday’s event as “a very critical meeting” that is being convened by Sandals La Source in their attempt “to get the country opened up (as) they want to get their business up and running”.
The internationally-recognised all-inclusive hotel brand, owned by Jamaican business tycoon, Butch Stewart has been trying to open its Grenada business since June.
According to the source, there is a strong possibility that Sandals will inform the government officials that it is either the government take a decision to open up the country within a matter of weeks or the hotel will have no choice but to remain closed for a considerable period of time.
“They are putting huge pressure on the government to open up,” he quipped.
The source pointed out that local hoteliers are angry and are throwing their full support for the move being taken by Sandals to bring “some substantial pressure” on the Mitchell-led government “to get the tourism sector up and running once again”.
This move comes days after the island’s most decorated hotel, Spice Island Beach Resort (SIBR) announced that it will keep the property closed until October 2021 which would result in over 200 workers being out of employment for the next year.
SIBR who lost its owner Sir Royston Hopkin earlier in the year, said it plans to use the lockdown period to improve safety and health protocols and to further enhance the resort.
A release from the hotel said the owners took the precautionary decision to delay reopening “to protect our guests, our family and our employees from the spike in infections that we have seen across the Caribbean as islands as hotels have reopened.”
“Spice Island Beach Resort will use this time to polish everything at the resort, making it better than ever when it reopens next year. We will also prepare safety and health protocols to protect our guests when they do return in 2021,” a family member was quoted as saying.
According to the top hotelier, the decision by SIBR to remain closed for this extended period sent “shockwaves” within the government given the growing unemployment situation in the country.
He hinted that another major hotel in the Lance Aux Epines area might also be thinking of following Spice and delaying its own re-opening to a later date due to the protocols put in place by government.
Earlier this week, the Health Minister announced that a set of new protocols will soon be put in place by government in the fight against Covid-19 but he did not give any indication that it was due to pressure from local hoteliers.
The industry official said the government in St. George would have to start thinking of the cost involved to the country in not getting the hotel sector up and running again because so many people on the island live from “pay cheque to pay cheque” from the jobs provided in the sector.
In a pointed criticism of the government, the hotelier said the primary reason why Grenada is not attracting flights to the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) at the moment is due to the fact that the regime has not encouraged flights due to “so many restrictions in the way of these flights”.
He said that Grenada has to open up at some point to deal with a deteriorating economic and financial situation as “people are hungry”.
“This bloody lockdown thing is stupid – it is foolish,” he remarked.
According to the top hotelier, the lockdown made sense in the April to May period at the onset of Covid-19 but not necessary some four months later.
“We haven’t had a case now for months and months. You got to get airlines to start flying here – the hotels are ready and willing to re-open. You just got to get the airlines to come in and you got to make the protocols in such a way that the tourists would think that’s not too bad – I can live with that.
“There is a certain risk we have to take – we know that there is a risk out of it. We know that if we open long enough that somebody will come in with the disease.
The hotelier noted that the rest of the world is now living with Covid-19 and Grenada cannot afford “to hide itself away from the rest of the world”.
“We need to just live with it,” he said.
The hotelier charged that the Mitchell-led government is to blame for the state of affairs in the country as it concentrated too much on a policy of “putting all your eggs in one basket”.
“You got to spread it – we should have been emphasising more on light industry and agriculture and not have everything on tourism,” he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell has been coming under increasing fire as youth unemployment which was already estimated at 50% is believed to have increased significantly due to job losses as a result of coronavirus.