Carimar Beach Club, at Meads Bay, has received excellent reviews for opening its doors to a number of guests during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, notwithstanding the absence of some of its amenities and other services.
Carimar’s General Manager, Mr. Rolf Masshardt, spoke to The Anguillian newspaper about how the guests were accommodated, the work of the staff and the plans for the full reopening of the property. “It was a little bit of a challenge. We had two guests through the hurricane. As they couldn’t fly out they stayed here and we took care of them,” he reported.
“We had two other guests who were in another property, where they did not feel safe, so they came to us where I was running one building at the time. Mr. Cardigan Connor [Parliamentary Secretary, Tourism], came one evening [after the hurricane] with eight people. I had no staff here but my wife, daughter, and I cleaned some rooms for them to sleep and that’s how it started. We opened one building after the other and then, a few days later, the British military came and asked for rooms as well. So we had people from different organisations including the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, UNICEF, UK agencies and up to 75 persons from the British military who stayed until the end of September.
“That was quite a challenge and it was quite an active and hectic time. I think Shoal Bay Villas, ourselves and Paradise Cove were the only ones which tried to stay open. This is the advantage of smaller properties. They are personally run, and I run Carimar as though I am the owner – as I am used to that. I think that makes a big difference. I am not criticising them but sometimes the bigger properties take the easier way and don’t want to be bothered with having people around and, unfortunately, don’t open for a long time.”
“I could only provide the accommodation at Carimar because the staff came, cleaned, and did everything they could to make it possible. I could not have done it alone, but the staff was great in providing the necessary assistance. It pays to treat your workers well and then they will pay you back by being loyal. I think it is better to be open. We have noise and reduced services until we are fully open, but it keeps the staff busy. They get service charge, even if it is not much, and they work seven days a week – with overtime pay – so everybody gets something out of it.”
Mr. Masshardt was pleased to state that less than a week after the hurricane he had spoken to the chairlady of Carimar’s Board of Directors and was able to set up a relief fund to raise over 100,000 dollars for the staff. He explained that the contributors to the fund were some 80 percent repeat guests as well as the 24 owners of the condominium property. “We don’t have that many staff. We have 26 so everybody got a nice little something towards their hurricane damage. I think that also helped a lot to motivate them,” he told the newspaper.
It was not the first time that Mr.Masshardt accommodated guests after a hurricane. He did so in 1995 while at La Serena when Hurricane Luis struck Anguilla. “We had that hotel for 22 years and our workers, who were like family, came to work right after the storm,” he recalled.
Asked what message he might have for the people of Anguilla, he replied: “I think most people do exactly what they should do: firstly, clean up and then try to rebuild their lives as good as possible – and be on their own feet. I think everybody tried their best to do so. It is unfortunate that so many properties are closed, and that so many people will be out of work or with less work – and this will be a problem for the next couple of months. But I hope the properties can employ the maids to clean up – and everybody else and so they should give at least everybody a little work. That is important because, if the people of Anguilla have work, they can rebuild. But if they don’t have a job, and any income, it will be very difficult.”
Mr. Masshardt was asked when he plans to fully reopen Carimar Beach Club. “Right now, we are open for whoever wants to come but they know there is noise; there is work to be done; there are no railings so there are some limitations, and we run on generators so that is a handicap but it works,” he said. “We have a soft opening on the first of December when we think all the work might be done, but we might not have cable TV and full internet – and then we will have a grand opening on December 21st but we are now open for business.”
He added that, in the meantime, ten guests, who visit Carimar and Anguilla every year, had arrived in Anguilla last weekend. “They are coming despite that things are not perfect,” he said. “They have been coming for 20 years, know each other, had to change planes and had a lot of other problems to get here, but they are managing to do so and will be coming for two weeks. I also have two German couples coming in another week, for three weeks, and they come every year. They said ‘we want to come because the beach is here; the people are here, and we really do not care about the fancy restaurants if they are not all open. There are enough local restaurants.’
“I think it is a big chance for local places if they promote themselves properly,” Mr. Masshardt concluded.