Universal announces three-month resort closures amidst coronavirus economic blow
Universal Resorts has announced plans to temporarily close all of its resorts, as the Maldives reels from the economic impact of a series of drastic preventive measures aimed at containing the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement, parent company Universal Enterprises said all of its resorts will be closed for three months from April. Resort employees will be given paid leave for the three-month period, it added.
“We expect to review this decision once every month, with a view to assess the situation and return to our normal operations at the earliest,” the statement read.
“Our primary business is hospitality. … We are amongst the Maldivian companies worst hit by the global economic downturn. However, we are working to find ways to run our operations at some level and ensure that no employee is laid off.”
Universal Resorts is a pioneering establishment that has led the development of the travel and tourism industry in the Maldives for over 46 years, playing a key part in the transformation of the country from an island nation to one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.
The group now operates one of the largest resort collections in the country, including iconic properties such as Kurumba Maldives, Velassaru Maldives, Kuramathi Maldives, Baros Maldives, Kandolhu Maldives, Dhigali Maldives, Milaidhoo Island Maldives and Faarufushi Maldives.
Universal’s decision to close its resorts comes days after another leading local resort operator, Villa Hotels, suspended the operations of three of its four resorts.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.
Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — have since been identified. All the patients are under isolation, being treated at designated quarantine facilities.
Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on Thursday, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a 14-day ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.
A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered.
The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.
Cruise ships had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.
The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.
Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.
The global coronavirus outbreak is expected to hit the Maldivian economy hard, as tourism contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
The government has already announced several cost cutting measures, including a freeze on the hiring of new staff and suspension of non-essential travel by state officials.