April 01, 2015
Management at the One&Only Ocean Club yesterday dismissed as "completely untrue" rumors that the resort plans staff layoffs in connection with its much-anticipated renovation. But while the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union said it accepts the resort's assertions for now, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said the resort is indeed moving "in the direction of layoffs" - a decision Wilchcombe hopes the resort will "reconsider".
With rumors running rampant after Labour Minister Shane Gibson's cryptic warning about impending redundancies at a Paradise Island resort which he declined to name, Kerzner International - which stayed on as the management company for the One&Only Ocean Club after Access Industries bought the resort from Brookfield Management last year - called the report "the kind of rumors and falsehoods that are critical to dismiss".
Gibson lashed out at Scotiabank on Tuesday for its decision to restructure, which will affect eight branches and 50 jobs over the next six months. He also hinted that a Paradise Island resort was planning to make "scores" of its workers redundant, but refused to name the resort because he was not sure the employees had been informed of the resort's plans.
Yesterday, Ashley McBain, vice president of corporate communications for Kerzner International One&Only Resorts, addressed reports that the resort is planning to make staff redundant due to renovations.
"That statement is completely untrue," she told Guardian Business. "As soon as we have finalized plans and have met with both key government officials and the union about these plans and related impact, we will share further details. Any changes will be minimal."
And, Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union General Secretary Darrin Woods told Guardian Business that at a meeting with employees and union reps called by the resort yesterday to address the rumors, the resort's management assured that no layoffs are pending.
When Access purchased the resort, the new owners touted plans for a significant renovation of the One&Only Ocean Club. In fact, in his midyear budget speech, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the upgrade carried a price tag of $50 million.
Woods told Guardian Business that management assured the staff and the union that no renovations would happen in 2015, but could not say when they would take place beyond that.
"There are no plans for any layoffs at the One&Only Ocean Club. That is what was said to the employees in the presence of the union," Woods said.
Still, Woods admitted that the union is not taking the minister's remarks lightly.
"We will do our due diligence. We do not want to be caught off guard," he said.
Complicating matters, however, is the assertion by Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe that the resort does appear to be leaning toward layoffs.
"We have met with the leadership of One&Only Ocean Club who expressed their determined effort to return the property to its high end status," the minister told Guardian Business.
"Eliminating the guests' complaints that have grown over the years and making practical adjustments to its operations are among the matters that are leading the hotel in the direction of layoffs.
"Obviously this is not the preferred choice. We are hopeful that the hotel will reconsider," Wilchcombe said.
McBain had released a statement earlier yesterday reiterating that Access and Kerzner have been planning for a significant renovation of One&Only Ocean Club and working through the approval process with the government.
"The renovation of One&Only Ocean Club to upgrade facilities is also being complemented by investment from One&Only, as the management company, in training programs to improve the future growth of team members and the overall service quality expected by today's discerning travelers," McBain said.
"These upgrades and improvements are critical to the continued success of the resort and the long term sustainability of hundreds of Bahamian jobs. Our long-term commitment remains to work closely with the Bahamian government and the Ministry of Tourism to safeguard the future of the resort and Bahamian employment.
"As soon as we have finalized plans and have met with both key government officials and the union about these plans and related impact, we will share further details."
The focus on "training programs to improve the future growth of team members and the overall service quality expected by today's discerning travelers" echoes what One&Only Ocean Club General Manager John Conway told Guardian Business earlier this year.
During a discussion of the strength of Nassau/Paradise Island's tourism product, Conway stressed the importance of ensuring that service - especially at ultraluxury resorts such as One&Only Ocean Club, where rooms can cost as much as $2,000 per night - must improve faster than the rising costs of tourism in The Bahamas.
Ocean Club is one of the most expensive One&Only resorts in the world.
"At what point do we hit the top of that? How do you create value at that level?"
Conway's answer: Service that anticipates a guest's needs. Noting that the resort's prices are six-star prices, he said One&Only must work to ensure that it remains a value-for-money proposition.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian