…a blog from the Atmosphere owners
It is just over a year that me, my wife and our team at Atmosphere approached each guest personally to give them options on leaving our small piece of paradise. Word came from the government, that we only had days to get every international guest out of the Philippines and home, before the lockdown was imposed.
We remember waking up that morning, reading the news and realizing we were about to start on a long, emotional journey through what for us has been the hardest time of our life in business. We looked each other in the eye and vowed that we needed to be strong and that cracks could never show to our guests, our team and ultimately our kids as we tried to make sense of everything happening around us.
We managed the guests’ immediate needs; flights needed booking, agents needed to be kept in the loop, and all manner of logistics needing attention. All the while, we tried to keep our own thoughts clear of the myriad of daunting questions bouncing around in our heads. There were some incredibly emotional goodbyes to friends and guests with the unknown belief in what was exactly transpiring at the time.
Once all guests were safely on their way home, we started the arduous process of reducing operations to a minimum and preparing a 44 room, luxury resort for lockdown. The scale of what our team accomplished in a short time seems staggering now. We cleaned and wrapped up equipment, emptied and cleaned fridges and freezers, gave away what we could of perishable stock and did what we could to sit it out.
Three days later we walked through our dream resort, which my wife and I had designed and built from scratch together. A journey of 16 years and there it was, a ghost town. Our hearts were torn apart as we tried to manage our dwindling team, through the downsizing, having to say bye to some of our team members, who we knew, we could not support further.
The Philippines has minimal support for employees and none for businesses and so one of our main concerns was our team and the lack of help they would receive. We helped by offering staff rotation on any jobs which were available, and keeping as many people employed as possible whilst also balancing cash flow. Through the help of our guests, families and friends we raised 1 million pesos, so we could help with cash and livelihoods to help our team through the pain.
Throughout all the heartache and emotion, what shone through was the resilience of the local people who smiled and picked themselves up, set up fish stalls, started living off the land, drove delivery services and did what they could just to make do. We have never been so humbled by an incredible nation of people.
We spent four months in solid lock-down, working as hard as we could to manage the bookings we had to defer, the empty resort and any logistics that came our way. Then in July, the government started to ease local lockdown and the chance to open slowly started. Since then, we have been operating Thursday through to Sunday only, managing each day at a time.
This has not been easy, but the restaurant and pool villas that were constructed just before Covid-19 struck, have been a business saver. They have proved a hit with the locals and we have become the venue of choice on this coastline, where private pools and our spacious design made social distancing easy to handle. It goes without saying that business is nowhere near the past levels but we have had tremendous support locally. Our personal thank you goes out to the people of Dumaguete and Negros Oriental.
The one area of the world which has taken a deep sigh this last year has been mother earth and none so much as the underwater world. Through our sister company the Institute of Marine Research, our scientific data and research has been able to continue. See below for an update from IMR.
For those of you divers less scientific, the house reef is abundant with the usual critters, the pygmy seahorses are still here, jawfish await with mouths full of eggs and our usual big schools of batfish and barracuda are on the house reef. It is frogfish season now and in October we will be ramping up to Octopusfest! So, if you can get here, we hope to see you then.
We find ourselves here now at the beginning of Q2 2021 and slowly domestic restrictions are starting to lift. Of course, we have to be cognizant that Covid is still prevalent around the world, but with the vaccination attempts worldwide, and in the Philippines, hope is rising in our part of the world and in our lovely team.
Our team is working hard as we start oiling the gears and getting our engine back to full motion. Our marketing and social media keep you informed of the latest developments and please stay tuned for the launch of our new booking engine through Atmosphere’s website.
We cannot wait to once again welcome you personally into Atmosphere, go diving, enjoy a sunset cocktail and look forward.
Regards from the Beach,
Matt, Gabrielle and the Team
An update from IMR (Institute of Marine Research)
2020 had IMR kicking their research goals and completing a full survey year, despite lockdowns and a subsequent dive ban. This long-term monitoring project has become an integral part of the Dauin Local Government Unit and Coastal Resource Management team, directly providing updates and awareness in both reef trends and concerns. As a result, the project was flagged for exemption during the lockdown period. The continuation of this research allowed IMR to detect and control an early Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreak across the Dauin reef. In addition, the long-term monitoring data that is now being processed by the team will be able to identify any changes to the reef community as a result of the pandemic (loss of jobs, more fishing etc.). This data will be presented to the government and local community in April 2021.