Abaco resorts: 'We must know what we're facing'

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Abaco resorts yesterday called for more clarity around the COVID-19 travel protocols as they seek to rebound from the combined devastation of Hurricane Dorian and the global pandemic.

Brent Ingraham, the Abaco Beach Resort and Marina's director of sales and marketing, told Tribune Business the property and its guests simply "want to know what we're up against" in terms of restrictions and regulations after overcoming concerns surrounding the now-eliminated 14-day quarantine.

"The resort has been completely renovated or refurbished," he said. "We've been open now for about the past four or five months, and we have refurbished all of our guest rooms and added a new restaurant, so we have a total of two restaurants on the property now. We’ve also built a new resort lobby, which we refer to as the Great Room, which is our welcoming centre.

“We have enhanced the landscaping throughout the property. We rebuilt the entire marina of about 200 slips from the ground up that was totally destroyed, and that was complete almost three months ago.”

As to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, Mr Ingraham said: “I think like every other country or island, the opening and closing has certainly affected the business. My interaction with the client on this side, as I'm in Florida so I'm closer to the customers, and get a better feel and barometer of what's happening here in the market: Persons are eager to come to The Bahamas; they’ve shown that.

"I was recently at the boat show. The main question they had was simply when is the country going to open and the elimination of the quarantine? I think we've gotten past that. But hopefully, as we have a marina, that business I feel is the one that is going to come back the quickest versus anything else because they can come with their own free will. That business for us is going to be the one that returns the quickest.

“Folks just want to know that there's some there's some normalcy. If they know what their expectations are, they're going to come. I think if we're able to maintain control as it relates to the COVID-19 situation, ourselves in the Bahamas, I think that will be good. We just want to know what we’re up against. That’s the bottom line.”

Robert Ford, general manager of Delphi Club, said: “For Abaco itself, Marsh Harbour is certainly getting better. There's a long way to go still, obviously. But things are definitely getting better.

"We were very fortunate at Delphi. We are about 25 miles south of Marsh Harbour, and the highest winds we got were about 80 miles an hour. We had a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of damage, as opposed to Marsh Harbour, which obviously got wiped out.”

Mr Ford said he could have opened the resort a week after Dorian, but the infrastructure damage in Marsh Harbour was too great. He added: “The one thing that still hurts us a little bit is there are no lights at the airport. So you can't get flights in late at night or out late at night.

"Some of our clients like to fish the day and then fly home at night, you know? But I mean, again, in the scheme of what's happened to Marsh Harbour, that's a very minor problem. That's what you call first world problems.”

Mr Ford said Delphi Club has been open since November 1. He added: “We actually had 12 people about two to three nights ago, which is the busiest we've been since February. We've basically been totally muffled since the COVID-19 lockdowns because nobody can come in and out of the country.

"But we've got all the COVID protocols in place. If you go on our website, you can see that we've done all our COVID protocols and are advising people on how to get there. We've even got one of our staff now trained by a local GP (general practitioner) to do the testing after five days. We were kind of nervous about how that was going to work, but we've now got somebody at the lodge trained to do that.”

Shane Krige, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay's general manager, said: “One of the things people may not have realised is we did not close. We've always been open. After Dorian we were closed for a very short period of time and were back open in October. We were very fortunate that we did not bear the brunt of Dorian.

"The property did take some damage, but we were able to get the club back open. We're a private residential community. During the early stages of COVID we had members that stayed with us for two to three months. For us we've been just plugging forward and we've renovated a lot of the areas. Our gym is just going to be renovated and will be done in December."

Looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Mr Krige said: "Christmas is looking great and we expect a full house. We sold out on the homes that we have available for renting to members, and members that do have homes are all coming down.

"Thanksgiving is looking great. So, for us, we're just moving forward. Very happy to say that our ownership group continues to invest money in the property to make sure that it is at the top, and we are being extremely safe with COVID-19, and the protocols and the travel requirements.

“We spend a lot of time with anyone that's coming, with members that are coming, to walk them through the steps of what you need to do and the requirements from a government standpoint. We're just trying to make it easier to travel and get people here, and it's working."

However, Dr Larry Carroll, owner/operator of the Sandpiper Inn, said: “I have decided not to reopen until after the US presidential swearing-in in January. The overall problem remains uncertainty and continually changing policy. Nothing is fixed and there is potential for a change at any moment. I cannot afford to run a business with such uncertainty day to-day.”