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Sandals’ costs “unsustainable”

Resort seeks to save 600 jobs
  • Sandals Emerald Bay. File photo

CANDIA DAMES
Guardian News Editor
candia@nasguard.com

Published: Oct 01, 2012

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The current costs associated with operating Sandals Emerald Bay are “unsustainable”, resort officials said in a statement.

But they expressed optimism that they would be able to find a way to bring those costs down in conjunction with the government, thereby saving an estimated 600 jobs on Exuma.

Sandals released the statement after The Nassau Guardian reported comments from Prime Minister Perry Christie, who said Thursday the resort is in danger of closing.

“Today in Exuma we have challenges where a place like Sandals where the developer Butch Stewart has put incredible amounts of money into and developed an incredibly beautiful product... is fighting to try to stop from losing an enormous amount of money and could close it,” said Christie at The Bahamas Economic Recovery Strategy Meeting at the British Colonial Hilton.

“...We have to try and see what model can work.”

Sandals said in its statement that it is a fact that the hotel is facing severe difficulty in continuing operations at Emerald Bay because of the multitude of high costs associated with operating from the Family Islands of The Bahamas.

“Some of these costs could never have been anticipated and make the Emerald Bay resort unlike any other we operate”, the company said.

“We have made an enormous investment in developing Sandals Emerald Bay into a five star plus hotel which sits on 500 acres of land and includes a Greg Norman designed Championship Golf Course.

“Because of the nature of the destination, we cannot and will not short change our customers who expect a high level of service.

“However, the cost to operate the facility is proving to be unsustainable.  The highest utility costs we face as a hotel chain, limited airlift to the island, the continuing need to subsidize airlifts, high fuel and transportation costs added to a series of costs associated with overcoming the limited pool of trained professionals on the island, are some of the factors which have made the resort unsustainable.”

While Sandals officials said they believe the Family Islands are the future of Bahamian tourism, they said the unusual level of input costs make doing business there almost impossible, especially during a time of economic downturn.

Company officials met recently with government officials to discuss their challenges.

But they said in the statement they are not seeking a bailout.

“What we have done is to put the situation squarely to the government and asked them to investigate ways in which they can work with us to bring some respite to the impossible economic environment we are facing in the Family Islands,” the statement said.

“So far, we have been encouraged by the response of the government which recognizes the problems as well as the need for government and investors, such as Sandals, to work together to arrive at a model to enable quality sustainable tourism to operate and grow in The Bahamas.”

Officials said the resort company has invested heavily in airlift, including the introduction of the first scheduled jet service to the Exumas, as well as enormous marketing of a little known destination.

“The difficulties we are facing can be solved with a determined resolve and a prompt and creative approach to ensure sustainability,” the statement said.

Sandals employs 1,400 full time employees at Sandals Royal Bahamian in Cable Beach, Fowl Cay and Sandals Emerald Bay.

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