Jurmala Spa manager on Latvian lockdown: It brings me to tears

Hotel Jurmala Spa.
Hotel Jurmala Spa. Source: Jurmala spa

Arne Kalbus, head of the Jurmala Spa in Latvia, told ERR that the hotel will likely have to close its doors for a month and cancel any bookings in that time. There are no documents yet about Latvia's decision to go into lockdown from Thursday, which is why the hotel manager is at a waiting position.

Arne Kalbus said the hotel and spa have been closed for a total of eight months during the three coronavirus waves: two months during the first wave and six months during the second wave. In that sense, the upcoming lockdown is nothing new to the hotel.

"In terms of business, it means exactly what it has meant for the eight months," Kalbus noted.

Latvia is currently in a school break, the Estonian school break will take place next week. The spa is popular among Estonians, who make up about 15 percent of the clientele, even more during school break weeks. Foreign tourists have all but disappeared as a result of the pandemic, 85 percent of the clientele have been from the three Baltic states, which to Kalbus is the domestic market.

Foreigners make up just 15 percent of the clientele. "It is a ridiculous number! Latvia has done everything it can to take tourism downhill," Kalbus said.

The popular destination will now be empty and closed almost overnight. The hotel manager did not know how many bookings need to be canceled after the initial announcement to go on lockdown was made.

"The building was almost fully booked up. We are doing well, considering the situation. This new decision came from out of the blue. I personally did not believe they would implement a curfew. It is wild! I do not understand it - why should I not be able to go outside in the fresh air after 8 p.m., how will that limit Covid?" Kalbus asks.

He said he was surprised at the speed this round of restrictions was announced without there being an official document drawn up to explain the statements made by Prime Minister Krišjanis Karinš on Monday.

As of the currently available information, only essential stores will remain open, but there is no definition of what is essential and what is not. For some, alcohol can be an essential product, Kalbus noted. For this reason, most entrepreneurs have decided to wait on an official explanation.

"That is how it is in Latvia - if there is a Karinš press conference, I want to see some kind of document, but none have reached me. The Saeima (Latvian parliament - ed) is sitting there, we will likely get some papers on Wednesday afternoon and everything must be closed on Thursday. I have 100 employees! You cannot lead a company by saying: 'Arne, let's do it this way'. It is also not how you lead a country!" the hotel manager said.

Kalbus said he has only heard of a wage support scheme, but companies will not receive any state aid. Maintaining a spa is not the same as maintaining a home, however, systems must keep running even if there is no business.

"I have to heat the building, run the pumps, the ventilation. I cannot turn anything off here - it is not a two-room apartment in Mustamäe, where you lock the door and leave for two months," Kalbus said, adding that the spa's surface area is 18,500 m2.

He also did not believe Latvia will limit the lockdown to November 15 and is sure the lockdown's end date will be pushed further. "We can see it clearly in Estonia - restrictions do not help, other things help. You cannot lock a person in!" Kalbus said.

"The media in Estonia is cursing the state for being so bad and [Prime Minister] Kaja Kallas for being so dumb, but you know - watching it from Latvia - Estonia is a pretty nice country and Kaja Kallas is a pretty nice girl," Kalbus said.

The hotel manager said the lockdown will not bring Jurmala Spa to bankruptcy and the company's financial standings are decent. "But all investments have been delayed, development is basically at zero. Every company needs to develop, but there has been a complete stop in the hotel industry for two years," Kalbus said.

"We will survive these times, I don't doubt that, but this brings me to tears," the hotel manager added.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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