By Venessa Anthony
Christmas this year is going to be quite a different affair. No longer is anyone travelling out and about for the festive season; everyone is stuck at home in fear of contracting the virus. Meanwhile, there are small businesses that are suffering even more so. We at The Morning Brunch spoke to a few boutique villas about how they were coping with the pandemic and the huge loss in guests and tourism.
One party at a time: Jasper Ocean Villas, Kosgoda
In conversation with the owner of Jasper Ocean Villas, Kosgoda, who wanted to remain anonymous, we were told about how the pandemic affected her business. “We’re actually managing okay since we have two properties. Our
regular guests still keep coming because they have a good understanding about our refund and cancellation policy.” She also added that many people are reluctant to book because the curfew is unplanned; whenever restrictions are implemented, they come with no warning, so guests don’t get the opportunity to cancel. “No one really wants to make the booking, and because of that, the occupancy has gone down drastically, and we still have to pay salaries to our staff.” She also worries about the Government imposing curfew during 24 and 25 December, which usually would be two of the busiest days of the year. She looked on the bright side, however, stating: “Things are doing okay, we are better off than the rest of the world.” Jasper Ocean Villas caters for family holidays, so she reassured that guests will be in a safe environment, stating: “We only cater to one party at a time, so it will only be immediate family. Our staff also lodge inhouse, so no one is travelling about, which significantly minimises the risk of contracting the virus.”
Hoping for the best: Pearl Villa, Habaraduwa
We spoke to Pearl Villa, Habaraduwa Manager and Administrator Dinera Theekshana about how they’ve been coping with Covid-19. “We are very concerned about the health and safety of our guests, so we have had to currently shut down operations.” He detailed why they decided to shut down temporarily, stating: “We don’t know where guests come from. We are located in the Galle District and there are many cases in the area, so we decided that this was the best step to take.”
He talked about how they handled guests before they shut down, stating: “We did have one guest (who was ill), and we informed the PHI (Public Health Inspector) office about them being there, to ensure maximum safety of everyone involved, we also strongly followed the Government regulations.” He added that they are hopeful that they will be able to reopen again, by the end of January, next year. “We believe that we will be able to manage.” Furthermore, he added: “Normally, this time of the year is the season. It’s usually busy. This year, there’s nobody, but we really hope tourism will pick up by next March/April.”
Ideal for this situation: ANI Villas
The Morning Brunch spoke with ANI Villas, Dickwella Resort Manager Dinesh Hewavitharana. “We’ve been open since March, but we don’t get any business,” he said despairingly. “We are using this time to finish all our maintenance work in the resort so that once business picks up again, we can continue to provide guests with a wonderful experience here at ANI Villas.” He encouraged guests to come to visit their property. “We are a private villa. If you stay at a five-star hotel, then you have no choice but to mingle with other guests, which may cause one to contract the virus. At ANI Villas, you come with either a trusted group of friends or your family. It’s very ideal for this unforeseen situation.” He told us that they already have some reservations pending because people understand that they can have a nice vacation while being as safe as possible from the virus, adding: “Once the airports open, we are hopeful that tourism will pick up and business will go back to what it was.”
Bentota River Villas
Bentota River Villas Owner M.S.M. Ishaf said that he was not too happy with the current situation: “We do have a few guests on and off, but usually, December is packed. We have a hard time getting guests because we require a quarantine certificate from them.” He talked about how bad the situation is both in our country and in the rest of the world. “We usually have a group of Russians that visit us for over two weeks this time, every year, but because of the restrictions, we are unable to accommodate them, leading to a huge loss in income as well.
The underlying theme at all these villas is that it is much safer for everyone to vacation at a villa because of the privacy you are guaranteed. This pandemic has affected us all, both mentally and physically, and so we all could use a much-needed break from the busy hustle and bustle of the “new normal”. Why not go ahead and book yourself a lovely holiday, and support local businesses that are struggling to make ends meet? It’s the season after all!