Forty-two employees of the eco-lodge at the Asa Wright Nature Centre have been terminated.
The lodge has ceased operations due to the closure of the borders and limited physical movement as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the not-for-profit Trust remains in existence and there are assurances that it will continue managing its protected areas as a wildlife sanctuary.
The employees were terminated last Friday.
Board chairperson Prof Judith Gobin said yesterday it was a difficult decision to make but it became impossible to maintain a monthly operating cost of approximately $450,000, which included payment of salaries.
“It was a very difficult decision for us, as we have staff who have been with us from since we first opened our doors. We have made every effort to ensure our staff were employed from March to December 2020, but as we move forward into 2021 with no insight as to what is to come, we realised we could not afford to sustain this business,” she said.
Gobin said with no visitors, no revenue, no endowment, and no direct governmental assistance it has been extremely challenging for the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
“Asa Wright, which is a foreign exchange earner, received no Covid-19 relief grant and even when the board of management, which comprises of voluntary members covering a range of professions, reached out to apply we were told that Asa Wright Nature Centre, which attracts hundreds of people globally, did not qualify,” she added.
Asked whether the board would consider a financial relationship with corporate Trinidad and Tobago to save the 25-guest rooms eco-lodge, Gobin said many factors had to be considered, one being that the business entity must be environmentally friendly.
Gobin emphasised that the conservation and protection work of the Trust continues and is heartened by the response to its call for funding for this work—which was first made in October 2020.
Since 1967, the lodge has offered accommodation in cottages near the Main House to local and foreign visitors alike–attracting mainly eco-tourists, nature lovers and bird watchers from all over the world.
It is considered one of the top eco-lodges in the world and was recognised in the New York Times Bestseller book by Patricia Shulz, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.