Sitting Out the Corona Crisis on Yap – Bill’s Update
“What a difference a day makes”………….Most of us know Dinah Washington’s hit from the 50’s, but for the Manta Ray Bay Family, that day was definitely January 31 of this year. While travelling back with Patricia from a very successful BOOT show in Germany, the news reached us that the FSM – to my knowledge the first country – instituted a travel ban basically locking down the entire country. Not only visitors residing in countries with confirmed cases of the Corona virus, but also those residing in countries with no cases but traveling via Narita, Manila, Taipei or Seoul would be stopped in Guam for a 14 day quarantine. Technically Patricia and I were not allowed to return home but United Airlines only asked if we had been in China within the past 14 days which we were able to answer with a “no” so we were allowed to board the plane for Yap.
After two years of investing in our own flight reservation system and a partnership with Caroline Islands Air, we finally saw opportunities to get more divers to our beautiful island. The 31st of January and President Panuelo’s travel ban meant we had to brace for impact.
With occupancy in February down more than 70% due to last minute cancellations and March and April being empty and perhaps even beyond those months, means no guests at all during our normal high season. Needless to say, the worst is still to come.
We managed, up until 3 weeks ago, to keep the majority of our staff on the payroll and although with limited hours our biggest assets – our employees – still had some income. Unfortunately, all, but a few have been laid off by now. We do what we can trying to help them. Go fishing and distribute the fish among our employees, hand out food vouchers that can be used to buy supplies at the stores, give food from our hydroponics farm and other local sources in our family as well as letting them cash their vacation days. We’ll survive and although Yap State and FSM Government have pledged to support the local businesses, the financial aid has not come.
Enough self-pity. At the end of the day we’re still a Corona-free island, have our waters to fish in and our land to produce from. We are determined to come out of this crisis stronger and as soon as the funds are available we’ll try to get our staff back to work on projects that improve our facilities, services and dive options.
My family and I, together with our staff, just wanted to let you know that we’re going through tough times, but we’re all healthy. We’ll get updates on what’s happening on your favorite dive destination during this crisis through this blog on a regular basis. Stay tuned as my next blog will be about the exciting test dives that I did with OP, John and Mike for our soon to launch “Bonfire” dives.
All the best,
Bill, Patricia, family and staff