In what can best be described as a tactical move to deceive the employees of the Laico Atlantic hotel about the imminent closure of the hotel by its owners, the Libyan General Manager of the hotel, Mr. Abdullah El Omurani, told the hotel staff that the hotel will be undergoing renovation works for a period of 8 months starting 1st December 2015 and informed everybody that the hotel will not be needing their services during this period anymore. In other words, they were effectively declaring them redundant.
What he did not inform them was the fact that most of the major European Tour Operators including Thomas cook and Corundum have advised all their traveling holiday makers not to use or be guests to any of the Libyan owned hotels operated by LAICO Hotels management. The Freedom Newspaper has been reporting about this looming threat months ago and the meeting organized by the hotel’s General Manager this Thursday only lend credence to the gloomy picture facing the hotel for some time.
Whether asking the staff to stay at home for almost a year to carry out renovations at the hotel at this crucial time, when the tourist season is at its peak time is genuine or not, the truth is there have not been any major investments in the hotel to improve the dilapidated facilities which have been an issue with the Tourism Authorities for quite some time now. Thus forcing the GTA to revise down the hotel rating to a 3-star hotel.
The old carpets inside the hotel have not been changed for over seven years, the kitchen equipment are rusty and unfit for a hotel like Atlantic, there are cockroaches in the bedrooms, there are no flat screen TVs in the rooms and the swimming facilities have never been renovated since the hotel was bought by the Libyans.
While the hotel owners continue to owe the Government of Yahya Jammeh over D200 million for tax evasion and outstanding balance payment following the sale of the hotel in 1999, the current management have been busy transferring huge amount of foreign currencies from the hotel’s foreign-currency-denominated accounts at BSIC bank to overseas banks located in Dubai and Tunis.
Instead of using the limited money that the hotel is generating to service most of its debts and save the salaries of the desperate staff, the Libyans have been busy buying very expensive 4x4s from Dubai including the new Mercedes Benz that was the official vehicle of the former EU Charge D’Affaires who was forcefully asked to leave the country.
During the meeting with the staff, the General Manger disclosed that “all the Libyans hotels located around the world and managed by LAICO management groups have been asked by the EU and the United Nations to cease operations because of the current situation in Libya.”
With nowhere to turn to address their predicament, the 200 staff are now desperately looking for help from the government to rescue them and protect their jobs. There are three Libyans presently working at the hotel with each earning over $ 3,500 each per month when the average salary of the staff is less than D3, 000.00. Isn’t it time for the government to intervene and help protect the local jobs for the benefit of Gambians?
Atlantic hotel has a pivotal role in the history of tourism in the Gambia and it can only be preserved by this government that made the terrible mistake when making the sale of this historic hotel to none other than the late Gaddafi. Today most of the Libyan overseas investments made during the time of Ghadaffi cannot be properly accounted for.
The EU and others must have enough evidence to back up their claims. It is time to hear their call. Organizing a meeting at this very late in the day to tell the staff about the state of affairs of the hotel is just a ploy to cover up the unavoidable closure of Laico Atlantic hotel.
Written By An Insider