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Sep 18, 2020

The Struggles of Hotels during COVID-19 Pandemic

News Five visited two hotels in the Belize District to understand the financial struggles that hoteliers are going through during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Several hotels are making preparations for the reopening of the P.G.I.A. on October first.  Black Orchid Hotel in Burrell Boom has shut down because it is simply too costly to remain open. Villa Boscardi Hotel in Belize City remains open, but the owner says the requirements to obtain the gold standard automatically exclude smaller hotels. Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

The COVID-19 pandemic has almost killed the tourism industry which remains in a comatose state, only being kept alive by the few local tourists supporting hotels, restaurants and other tourist destinations. Accounting for fort-six percent of GDP, more than ninety percent of employees in the tourism industry have lost their jobs.   Hotels across the country have been struggling to stay afloat, eagerly waiting for the reopening of the Philip Goldson International Airport on October first.

 

Ted Tejada

Ted Tejada, President, Belize Hotels Association

“If there is no business no hotels are able to pay their loans. I don’t think that the country can suffice where there is going to be nine hundred hotels being on the table that can no longer pay their loans. At this moment I don’t think there is nine hundred buyers willing to buy hotels when there is no business.   Honestly, I have been hearing from some sources that there are already some hotels on sale. There are hotels that are not going to make it. There are restaurants that have not been able to sustain it and will not be able to sustain it. Very shortly within the next month you will be able to contact banks where there is going to be lists of these businesses on sale because they have not been able to be sustain and they can no longer carry on the load.”

 

And the load is heavy, heaving with worries of depleting revenue but continuously costly expenses.  Hotels, medium and small, across the country have been bracing the full economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have closed temporarily while others have done so permanently, calling it quits under the financial stress. Other hotels are holding on, surviving day by day.  Francoise Lays is the owner of Villa Boscardi Hotel, a small hotel in Belize City. She has been managing and running Villa Boscardi for twenty- three years

 

Francoise Lays

Francoise Lays, Owner, Villa Boscardi Hotel

“It is really very hard. There i sno business. We have some Belizeans that are travelling and are passing by and stuff, one day, two days. That’s it. The income is very, very small.”

 

Lays says that due to the pandemic, some employees had to be fired to break even with operational expenses.

 

Francoise Lays

“We keep one lady that is coming once a week to clean the place even if we don’t have anybody. The gardener because the garden always grows. So we have a lot of expense. Electricity an everything to round the property still. You need the lights. You have the pump up the Jacuzzi. You have something that always adds.”

 

Lays says she has tried to diversify the services but it has not been successful. Prices for the eight rooms have been slashed but expenses are higher than revenues.

 

Francoise Lays

“Last year we were working and thank God we were doing some money. We had an occupancy of about, in during the high season, about eighty percent but now it is two-three percent. It is a big problem.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Is it depressing?”

 

Francoise Lays

“Well I am not a depressed person, so I will fight but it is not encouraging.”

 

Owner of Black Orchid Resort in Burrell Boom Village Douglas Thompson says that operations at Black Orchid have been shut down due to the COVID-19.

 

Douglas Thompson, Owner, Black Orchid Resort

“Because of the uncertainty that we see in terms of how widespread the community spread it. So long as there is community spread then there is danger to not just myself but to my staff. So we don’t not want to expose ourselves unnecessarily. Especially given that the business is trickling in any event. It cost more to be open than to be close. We are doing all the things, putting gin the necessary changes to keep people safe. We have invested in foggers and humidifiers. Even faucets that are automatic. We are going go no touch as much as possible.”

 

Even though Back Orchid is experiencing a ninety-nine percent loss in revenue, Thompson  has not laid off staff and employees are called in time to time to do work around the hotel.

 

Douglas Thompson

Douglas Thompson

“We have had cooks here painting. We have had wait people doing other jobs and maintaining the property. We try to give them a stipend, not full pay. Obviously we cannot afford that. We are looking forward to the airport opening. Even though we presently can quality for the gold standard we haven’t applied for it because we believe that the responsibility is more than we are prepared to handle at this time.”

 

Lays says she is prepared to handle the responsibilities and is hoping that her hotel would qualify for the gold standard. But she says that there is one requirement that is prohibiting the approval. Lays says that smaller hotels are automatically being boxed out.

 

Francoise Lays

“They are trying to get the gold standards for some place. But what about the smaller spaces? We can get the gold standards as well but we don’t have the bar. I can cook for my guest. That is not a problem. I can find a tour operator. That is not a problem. That would be a qualified in receiving guest. The cooking I can do. I can send the lunch with the tour guide that would e coming. I take care of the breakfast. I can have dinner waiting for them when they come back. I don’t understand if I just don’t have the bar, I have the pool that they want, I just don’t have the bar , why can’t I open?   I think that sometimes it is really ignoring the smaller ones.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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