Wednesday, September 16, 2020
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE reopening of Club Med’s Columbus Isle Resort in San Salvador has been postponed until December 2021, dealing a massive blow to that island’s economy.
A lawyer for Club Med informed Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis of the decision in a September 14 letter obtained by The Tribune.
The operator is prioritising some of its other resorts around the world. Concerns about San Salvador’s ability to handle a health crisis factored into its postponement decision.
The resort shut down in March after the government banned international flights from France because of COVID-19.
Lawyer Clement Maynard, in a letter to Dr Minnis, noted Club Med has had all of its 70 worldwide resorts temporarily closed at one point during the crisis.
“Club Med is aware of, and comforted by, the efforts made by your government in relation to this pandemic and your government’s continued efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to care for Bahamian citizens and residents,” he wrote.
“Club Med takes as its highest priority the safety and security of its staff and guests and the health of the local communities in which its resorts are located. During this time of economic distress and international health crisis, Club Med has decided on a phased approach to reopening its resorts.
“The Club Med resorts are reopening in phases––starting first with the resorts which benefit from strong and accessible medical support combined with a local domestic tourism market. The Club Med Columbus Isle Resort is situated on San Salvador, a remote Family Island with extremely limited healthcare infrastructure (only a small clinic) and no transatlantic airlift. This lack of infrastructure poses an extreme challenge to Club Med and places the resort in the later phases of the company’s reopening plans.
“As a precaution to ensure the safety of the Bahamian residents of the island of San Salvador and the health and safety of Club Med’s staff, guests and providers, the difficult decision has been made by Club Med to postpone the re-opening of the Columbus Isle Resort until a later phase in December 2021. This decision was not made lightly by Club Med but with great consideration to the importance of the health and safety of its staff, guests, partners and the local community. Club Med will continue to monitor developments and to assess the feasibility of an earlier opening as the situation evolves but at this time it is not considered likely for the resort to reopen prior to December 2021.”
The letter added: “As an owner, resort operator and long-time tourism industry partner with the government of the Bahamas for over 45 years, Club Med has faced temporary closures in the past, including after September 11th (9/11) and after the impact from hurricanes. With collaboration with the government, and perseverance from Club Med, it was feasible for Club Med to re-open after such temporary closures and offer a better future for all concerned. Club Med wishes to assure the government that this remains Club Med’s approach.
“We advise that Club Med is to be in communication with the Ministries of Tourism and Aviation, and Labour, and with the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union to discuss its decision with them.”
Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis said the news is “economically devastating” for San Salvador, which is part of his constituency.
He suggested in a statement that the Minnis administration has not done all it could to make quicker reopening attractive for the operator, adding the administration should help the resort reopen by Christmas this year.
“I also note a troubling trend,” he said. “Every time the FNM is in office, this important resort and economic lifeline is closed and it takes a PLP government to cause its reopening. This is a grave economic injustice and disservice to the good and hardworking people of San Salvador. “They deserve much better. I am not satisfied that the government has and is doing enough to address the concerns of the resort to facilitate the reopening of Club Med in a reasonable time frame consistent with the government’s national economic reopening policy.
“The government cannot be seen to be AWOL and non-responsive in respect to the resort’s expressed concerns and Club Med’s decision to delay the reopening of its Columbus Isles property until December 2021.”