Antigua Observer:-The management of the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa has acceded to the request of the Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) and will be reducing the period of temporary closure from five months to three.
The resort originally announced that it would close for renovations in September and the process would last for up to five months.
In a letter to the union dated July 20th, General Manager of the Sandals Group Gaurav Sindhi, indicated that, “In the interest of our team members and all stakeholders concerned, Sandals Resorts International intends to make every effort to reduce the period of repairs to three months, and we are targeting a December 17, 2017 reopening of Sandals Grande Antigua”.
The union was also informed, in the letter, of a meeting between the company’s Chief Operations Officer Shawn Dacosta, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda on Wednesday.
Sindhi noted that Cabinet ministers also expressed concerns regarding the original time frame and offered to work with the resort to try and reduce the period.
“We are mindful of the vital importance of Sandals Grande Antigua to the tourism sector in the country. We are also confident that we can work together to address the other areas of concern in a manner that is most beneficial to our team members such as the issues of medical insurance and vacation,” the General Manager wrote.”
On Tuesday, General Secretary of the ABWU David Massiah made the request in writing to Sandals’ Chief Operations Officer Shawn Dacosta.
The management of the resort had promised the matter would have been brought to to the attention of the Chairman and Board for urgent attention.
Meantime, during Thursday’s Cabinet press briefing, Tourism Minister Asot Michael said the new closure date came as news to him.
“We did not have a date, but the Prime Minister did communicate to Sandals that he would want them to open before the end of December and so we are very happy that they have communicated that to the Workers Union,” Michael said.
The minister said while government accepted the need to conduct repairs, it was of the view that the period of closure was too long.
He also defended an earlier statement by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that the closure of the hotel was an “hostile act and a play for concessions”.
“We are still of the view that because sufficent notice was not given and there was no consultation with the government prior to the announcement – yes, it would have been deemed an act of hostility,” the tourism minister said.
Michael said the resort has extensive plans to renovate the lobby area of the the Mediterranean Village at Sandals Grande Antigua; construct a new gourmet first class restaurant; refurbish gyms, and staff quarters, among other upgrades.
The government will be extending various concessions to Sandals to facilitate importation of material needed to complete the renovation.
Over 700 workers will be affected by the closure.