Velaa Private Island Maldives introduces coronavirus employee relief scheme
Velaa Private Island has introduced a special relief scheme to shield its employees from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Velaa’s Colleagues Relief Scheme provides full basic salary plus a fixed allowance of $100-200 for employees currently out of the island. Eligible employees will continue to receive a long service allowance, whilst a special leave category will be assigned to them.
Employees still involved in the day-to-day operations of the resort will receive full basic salary and service charge in the range of $300-500 depending on the salary. Eligible employees will also continue to receive the long service allowance.
All contract staff will be paid their monthly pay as usual. Velaa also assures the third-party and outsourced staff that their contracts will not be terminated unreasonably.
“As we continue to closely monitor the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2), we understand the difficult situation our colleagues and their loved ones are in,” a memo sent to all employees read.
“As we work together to manage through this challenging time with looming economic uncertainty, it is reasonable and prudent to assume that this pandemic will affect the Velaa family members in numerous ways. However, unlike other corporates in Maldives, Velaa will not let its colleagues down, and in order to provide more support for our colleagues in during these tough times, our owner has committed to a Colleagues Relief Scheme (CRS).”
Owned by Czech investor Jiri Smejc, Velaa Private Island is an ultra-luxury resort tucked away within the collection of islands that form the northern Noonu atoll. Its name derived from generations of sea turtles that flock there to nest and hatch; it is comprised of 47 private villas, houses and exclusive residences. The resort also includes a Romantic Pool Residence which can only be reached by boat.
The Maldives on Friday enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even before the visa suspension, 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, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. 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 were also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
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.
Sixteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except two Maldivians who had returned from the United Kingdom — were later identified.
However, 11 out of the 16 have made full recoveries. Three out of the five active cases are being treated at designated quarantine facilities, whilst the other two had been repatriated to their home country of Italy.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, 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 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. Spa facilities located on inhabited islands have also been closed.
The Covid-19 outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of this month. With arrival numbers falling, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 5.6 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $446 million hit.
The government has launched an emergency MVR 2.5 billion ($161.84 million) facility and a package of financial measures to shore up the local economy against the coronavirus pandemic.
The MVR 2.5 billion stimulus plan includes MVR 1.55 billion ($100 million) in emergency loans for businesses to meet short-term working capital needs.
The emergency facility is complemented by a package of financial measures, including a six-month moratorium on principal and interest repayments for personal and business loans sanctioned by commercial banks.
Meanwhile, Bank of Maldives (BML) has announced a $2 million short-term financing facility for the tourism industry.
The facility by the country’s largest bank allows operational resorts and guesthouses finance up to $2 million to manage their working capital requirements, with a repayment period of three years.