With the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) pushing back its planned July 1 re-opening to later in the year, the island’s premier all-inclusive Resorts, Sandals/La Source is diverting guests with bookings to its other hotels in Barbados and Antigua in particular.
This was disclosed to THE NEW TODAY by a company official who said that the resort was looking forward to an occupancy level of 20% of its rooms at the start of the new season.
“We know initially that occupancy is not going to be what we want it to be because a lot of people are waiting to schedule their holidays but the times are not falling in line with what’s convenient to a lot of customers,” she said.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell told the nation on Sunday night that the airport will remain closed but only charter flights will be allowed to land on the airstrip.
Sandals/La Source and several other hotels in Grenada were forced to close their doors as government implemented a State of Emergency in March to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The official was asked to comment on the type of health protocols that will be put in place for the estimated 400 employees at the resort in order to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 into the local community.
She said the Ministry of Health was suggesting that all employees stay on the property but this was not a feasible proposal for the resort.
She stated that a compromise arrangement was worked out in which Sandals/La Source will put in place a whole new protocol of cleanliness that will be rolled out for the protection of guests and workers at the resort.
According to the official, the hotel had expected a relatively low occupancy level for the previously planned July 1 re-opening of the resort which would have provided a good opportunity to implement the new cleaning protocol and test its effectiveness.
This, she said will have required only 100 employees turning out to work and would have been a good opportunity for Sandals to put the system of cleanliness in place.
She added that the resort would have been able to “start small with the initial sets of protocol and then see where we can improve – what’s working and what’s not working”.
“We expect that (implementation of the new cleaning protocol) to happen when the hotel opens,” she said.
The official pointed out that whenever the resort re-opens for business the Sandals brand is ready to implement its protocol of cleanliness.
She said that Sandals is currently working with Caribbean Horizon on a protocol for airport transportation of guests flying into the island from overseas.
She spoke of the all-inclusive resort using one single company with the same set of protocols to transport the guests to the property with reduced numbers of only two couples instead of four on each bus.
“So we have less persons – a lighter load on the buses. Everybody has to wear their masks. There are sanitisers on the buses. The buses are sanitised frequently,” she said.
The official announced that Sandals Team members will be prevented from wearing their uniforms off the compound in going forward and will have to change back in their home clothes to go back into the community.
In addition Sandals Team Members are required to sanitise and engage in hand washing on leaving the resort after each day’s work.
The official also spoke of changes being made on the selection of staff who will be required to work on the re-opening of Sandals/La Source.
She said that those employees who do not have their own personal transportation are required to take the resort transfer bus for staff from St. George’s and Sugar Mill Round-a-bout to get onto the property.
“We will only be utilising Team members who have direct access to those transfer points,” she added.
She stated that as Sandals is anticipating low occupancy levels on re-opening, “we are just starting off with (a small number of) persons and limiting it to those who have access to easily get to the staff transfer from St George’s.
“It’s a little bit discriminatory but it’s for everybody’s safety,” she quipped.
The spokesman also referred to some changes in the process manner in which guests will have to check-in and it is now all digitally done.
“…When you (guest) come in we just slide your room key over to you so we don’t have to issue an I-Pad check-in. So if you didn’t do the check-in online you will still have to do the I-Pad check-in but of course we’ll sanitised the I-Pads,” she said.
The spokesman also disclosed that a number of furniture have been removed from the restaurants on the property in order to reduce on the number of persons to be accommodated at any one time.
Saying that there will now be less capacity in the restaurants at the resort, she said that the restaurants are now providing service by reservations only.
This, she said “is very weird for us because that is part of the novelty of Sandals – you can just walk in any restaurant and dine but that has changed now obviously”.
“We have a reservation system for all the restaurants,” she added.
A check on Sandals website outlines its EIGHTEEN TOUCH POINT PRACTICE” giving details of the protocols covering areas such as arrival of guests at airport lounges, transfer of visitors to the resort, housekeeping, and laundry, dining, and other activities at the resort.
The company notes in the bulletin that that prevention is the key to safeguarding the health of employees and guests.
It said: “We long ago developed a sophisticated approach to preventing the spread of illnesses at our resorts under the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organisation (WHO), and the local Ministries of Health in each country we call home.
“We have dedicated Quality Inspection Teams and environmental health and safety managers at all of our resorts to make sure every procedure is in place to protect every guest and team member. That even extends to our supply chain.
Our resorts have always been equipped with full-service medical stations staffed daily with a registered nurse and 24/7 on-call medical personnel, but we’ve upgraded these facilities to include the appropriate equipment and supplies needed to address new protocols”.