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Hoteliers face challenging times as virus hits travel sector

Photo: David Parody

by Priya Gulraj and Cristina Cavilla

The Sunborn Hotel will transition into “standby mode”, in a move that will make it available for the use of nurses amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes as the hotel reported a cancellations after people scaled back holidays and trips following advice from public health authorities to stop travel.
Help from the government, as announced by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in an emergency budget, will keep the hotel open, albeit on a different footing aimd at providing support to public health efforts.
But this move has been of concern to members of its staff, who are fearful about the future of their jobs and a lack of salary while they are waiting to be called back into work.
Christian Duo, of Unite the Union, told the Chronicle the union hopes that the hotel will reconsider its position and will stay open for business.
The union said it was not made aware of developments by the 5-star hotel and is concerned that salaries will not be paid to those workers not needed during this period.
But Marc Skvorc, general manager at the Sunborn, told the Chronicle the last hotel guests will be leaving on Sunday.
After that the hotel will go into “standby mode”.
Mr Skvorc said the Sunborn said it will co-operate with the Gibraltar Government in offering its 189 rooms to emergency healthcare workers if needed.
The hotel has been receiving cancellations as people are following the advice not to travel and stay at home, and in addition all restaurants and bars were closed down last week as part of the Gibraltar Government’s precautionary measures in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
At present, the “safety and security” of staff and guests is paramount, and Mr Skvorc said the reservations team and security staff will be still be working.
Mr Skvorc said the hotel is not making any redundancies or terminations at present, but the rest of the staff will remain “on call” and will be contacted in due course.
Meanwhile Gibraltar’s other hotels said they will operate as “business as usual” and welcomed the Chief Minister’s announcement.
A spokesperson for the Elliot Hotel said the hotel will continue to operation throughout the rest of this month, and it is still housing guests who cannot fly home.
Although the hotel has experienced a drop in the number bookings, it will continue to be operational under “business as usual” in order to protect its staff.
The Rock Hotel said it is very much open, and general manager, Charles Danino, said: “We’re fighting every day.”
Asked if they are taking it on a day-by-day basis, he said “yes”, adding”: “It’s very important that if we get the support that we need, our resilience will be strengthened.”
“We definitely welcome and look forward to seeing the special measures the Government is planning to implement to ensure hotels can stay open.”
“We’re very encouraged to hear that the Government is placing such an emphasis on leaving the hotels open.”
Meanwhile Franco Ostuni, the general manager for the Caleta Palace Hotel and the Holiday Inn Express, told the Chronicle the hotels have received an “unprecedented level of cancellations”, but that they will continue as normal.
The hotels still have clients, many from the commercial shipping industry who have “no alternative but to travel”.
But Mr Ostuni said this is a very “challenging situation” for all hoteliers and he would welcome special measures from the Government.

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