Exuma dealt “serious blow” over Sandals reopening delay, says Chamber chief

Exuma dealt “serious blow” over Sandals reopening delay, says Chamber chief
Exuma Chamber of Commerce president Pedro Rolle

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The island of Exuma has been dealt a “serious blow” over Sandals’ decision to delay the reopening of its Emerald Bay property to February 2021, according to the island’s Chamber of Commerce president Pedro Rolle.

Rolle warned the resulting financial and psychology strain will be “overwhelming”.

He said the property employs as many as 600 persons, with a significant ripple effect to the wider community.

“For us this really disappointing,” he said.

“It’s disappointing that it’s come to this. Every time the reopening is pushed back it’s a bigger challenge for the employees. This has been a challenging year. Most people had hoped that they would be working for Christmas, now Christmas is going to come and most people won’t be working.

“The financial and psychological strain on them is going to be overwhelming. This is a blow to us,” said Rolle.

He continued: “By far they are the largest employer. At some point, they were employing about 600 people. On an island like this that is a whole lot of people whose lives are being impacted.

“We cannot overstate the huge impact this is going to have on the economy. Still, we will have to learn to deal with it and this gives us an opportunity to consider our economic model and how we can put things in place to mitigate against something like this if not totally in some small way.

“This is not a way to run an economy. It’s not Sandals’ fault but the reality is we need to diversify our economic model so that one thing doesn’t bring us to our knees like this.”

Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper addressed the delay in a Facebook post yesterday.

He called the decision disappointing and disheartening.

“These crushing blows are now the nature of the times, I suppose,” Cooper said.

“But that makes it no easier for the people of Exuma. Sandals is the largest private-sector employer on the island and a good corporate citizen. This will be a crippling blow for the local economy and the hundreds of families who rely on their employees to put bread on the table.”

Cooper said the move will disadvantage those in the local economy who rely on the spin-off business.

He added: “While this is a tough pill to swallow, I remain firm in my belief that Exuma will bounce back stronger than before and has the potential to be a major driver of economic activity for the country.”