On June 4th 2020, Sandals Grande Antigua became the first resort in the group to once more open for business, and since then several others have followed in Jamaica, Saint Lucia and the Bahamas.
It was a landmark moment not just for the company, but for the tourism sector in Antigua and Barbuda on the whole.
The advent of the COVID pandemic led to an unprecedented shutdown of the sector, and for a long time the future seemed very uncertain. Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa closed its doors on March 30 resulting in over 600 employees being furloughed. It was a similar predicament for virtually every hospitality worker the world over.
Undaunted, Sandals officials set about working with both local and international health authorities to develop a stringent system called the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness, which enhanced the already high standards of hygiene practiced at all our resorts. An intense training programme ensured that all team members were up to date on the new protocols.
This means that we were ready and able to safely welcome guests when the Government reopened the borders. However this could not have been done without the dedication, hard work and commitment of our team members, who proudly stood up to ensure that we did our part to help rescue the tourism sector.
Housekeeper at Sandals Grande Antigua Gerda Baptiste was one of those impacted by the closure.
“I felt sad because I wasn’t going to see my guests anymore, not knowing if there will be a cure, thinking about my family, thinking how we are going to make a living,” the employee of over 12 years said.
Although Sandals continued to provide a level of financial support to the employees of up to 40% of their wages, as well maintaining their benefits and distributing care packages, the team members were still anxious to return to work.
Selina Naddour, a front office agent acknowledged the new normal people will have to adjust to, but is resolute in continuing to do her job.
“My ultimate goal is to become a hotel manager,” she said. “I think COVID is a virus that is going to be around for a very long time …but that is not going to stop me from executing my duties exceptionally.”
The front office agent is also upbeat about the future of the tourism industry in the twin-island-state.
“The fact that the resort has re-opened with a robust set of health and safety protocols shows that the industry is adapting and can thrive again. Once others see that persons are travelling, they will be encouraged to travel as well.”
Meantime, Baptiste assured all future Sandals guests that they can expect the very best service.
“A guest who is here now told me she likes the way we take care of them and that we are doing a great job,” she said. “That makes me feel great to see the guest appreciate how we treat them.”