‘Cutting work hours is last thing we want to do’

Posted on Feb 19 2020

Hyatt Regency Saipan in Garapan is still operating on regular hours and regular staff schedules. (BEA CABRERA)

With the absence of Chinese tourists and many CNMI hotels already cutting work hours from 40 hours to as much as 28 hours per week, Hyatt Regency Saipan has yet to follow suit, according to general manager Nick Nishikawa.

“We are not yet there. We still have so many things to do. As general manager, cutting work hours of our employees is the last thing we want to do,” he said.

For the moment, the hotel is resorting to maximizing the revenue that is coming in. “For example, if one restaurant is having good business, then we try to expand that and make money from there,” he said.

This was echoed by Josephine Mesta, Hyatt Human Resources director. “If need be, then hours will be reduced. But as long as we have the customers, we need the staff then and so we run on regular schedules so no one’s work hours has been reduced as far as we are concerned,” she said.

The decision of four airlines to suspend flights from China and Hong Kong due to the coronavirus outbreak has forced the CNMI government to implement austerity measures and pushed many private businesses to cut work hours.

A hotel in San Roque is still running on regular work hours, though. A cashier in the hotel, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said there have been talks about work hours being cut, but nothing concrete has been done yet. “My position is, it is better to cut work hours that be cut off from work permanently. I know it will only be temporary and I would rather have that than to be unemployed,” she said.

According to an AirBnb operator on Capital Hill, they have had zero guests since the first week of February. “We have received a lot of cancellations since most of our guests are from China and Korea. As for new reservations, we have seen many ‘likes’ under the room information that we have on the website but we have not gotten a solid reservation or booking yet,” she said.

“Although maintaining an AirBnb entails low operations cost compared to a hotel, the cancellations and zero reservations is lost income every single day,” she added.

Nishikawa emphasized that staff motivation plays an integral part in a hotel business’ daily operation. “If you cut hours, the motivation will go down. It is easy to cut hours but I don’t want the staff to have less motivation at work because the guests notice it. …We have to show a smiling face always,” he said.

“We have to do many other things first but, in the end, if we have to do it, everybody will understand the reason for cutting hours and still keep the motivation. Our business is to serve the customer and if motivation drops, guests will notice easily and I don’t want that to happen,” he added.

In an earlier interview, Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands president Gloria Cavanagh said the decrease in the number of tourists and hotel cancellations were immediately felt in the industry.

“By Jan. 26, we already felt the huge cancellations and sometimes there were, at most, 400 cancellations at one given time. The hotels that rely heavily on the Chinese market are the ones that are going to be affected the most,” she said.

“There’s not much incentive for people to travel right now, considering the suspension of direct flights from China to the CNMI and the proclamation of President Donald Trump suspending the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants to the United States and territories who pose a risk of transmitting novel coronavirus,” she added.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.
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