photo: Kim Hendriksen

WILLEMSTAD – The requested mass layoff at the Santa Barbara Beach Hotel is a forerunner for the rest of the hotel industry on Curaçao. Especially if the border doesn’t open quickly.

“If the border doesn’t open up in the next month for tourists, we will be forced to close our doors for an indefinite period of time and request a mass layoff for employees”, says Terence van de Valk of the Kontiki Beach Hotel. “As previously announced by many hoteliers, the 1st of July is the deadline.” The Kontiki Beach Hotel currently employs 275 individuals.

The Santa Barbara Beach Hotel , with 350 rooms and more than 250 employees, closed its doors on June 1st for a period of at least one to one and a half years. The hotel expects tourism to pick up next year and that they will only be able to cover their costs when that happens.

Director of the Curaçao Hospitality & Tourism Association (CHATA), Miles Mercera, says that other hotels on the island will have to make the same decision if the borders don’t open up before July 1st. “Sixteen thousand individuals depend directly or indirectly on tourism for their employment. All these individuals risk losing their jobs and incomes during the next month.” He warns for a domino effect.

Miles Mercera on the importance of keeping hotels open (Dutch spoken)

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At this moment in time, keeping hotels open will not cover costs according to Robbin Vogels, the owner of the Avila Beach Hotel. “We do get some guests that come in, but it’s a drop on a hot stone.” According to the hotel owner, the local market is too small to keep hotels going. Additionally locals don’t pay the same price as tourists. “It’s impossible for hotels to survive in this manner.”

The hotels owners believe that a decision should be made now. “You also have to account for a starting up phase”, Vogels explains. “It’s not the case that if we hear we can open on July 1st, that we’ll be fully booked from July onwards.”

“We can’t miss this season”
-Terence van de Valk, owner Kontiki Beach Hotel

Next to that, opening after July or August is extremely difficult because most people in the Netherlands will no longer have vacation days. “We won’t only miss the season, but more importantly: we’ll lose the fight against countries who acted quickly. In that case, starting up won’t be possible in a short time frame and we’ll have to start building up tourism on Curaçao from the bottom.

This would take years and will have disastrous results”, says Van de Valk. The hotelier believes that the responsible organizations have to see what the repercussions are of the corona measures and that they have to realize that if the country doesn’t completely open up soon it will lead to a lot more victims. “I hope that they get this, because without an economy there will no longer be a healthcare system for example”, concludes Van de Valk.