After the challenges caused by shipment delays, foundation problems and Hurricane Sandy in seasons one and two of Island of Bryan, season three now picks up with the hotel shutting down due to the pandemic about six weeks after Caerula Mar’s grand opening. We caught up with Bryan and Sarah Baeumler ahead of the season three kick-off on April 18 to chat about what the last year was like for them between lockdowns, renovations and reopening the resort for guests.
When the pandemic hit, what were the first steps you had to take?
The first set of travel restrictions came into play about six weeks after our grand opening. The Bahamas was not allowing any international travel into the country, or even in between local islands. First and foremost, we had to make a decision about where we wanted to be with our children, and that was to avoid crowded international travel back to Canada and remain at the hotel on South Andros. All our renovations that were underway were halted, existing reservations had to be cancelled, and travellers refunded. We had to lay off the majority of our staff, but kept a skeleton crew on for maintenance, landscaping and housekeeping in order to protect the infrastructure of the hotel. It was a very difficult time.
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Did you spend the duration of the lockdown in the Bahamas or did you come home to Canada during that time?
We stayed on the island with the kids for about 10 months in order to avoid traveling through busy international airports and to protect our investment here. To date, there have been no cases of COVID on our island. Eventually, we made our way home to Canada for Christmas and quarantined while enjoying some snow at our home.
How did the pandemic alter your remaining renovation projects at the resort?
Most of the major renovations had already been completed, however there were a few smaller projects underway that we continued with. Some bigger plans have been put on the back burner until we see where things are headed, and hopefully see a recovery in the travel industry.
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When were you able to welcome guests back to the resort? What was that experience like?
The Bahamas reopened for international travel with strict health and safety protocols in place in the fall, so we decided to reopen Caerula Mar after hurricane season at the end of October. Welcoming guests back to the resort was a strange experience for everyone — it was great to have staff back at work and a little revenue coming in, but everyone was understandably a little nervous. Travellers are required to provide proof of a negative COVID test within five days of travelling, secure a travel health visa from the Bahamas, and take another COVID test within five days of arrival. Strict mask and distancing protocols remain in place in public areas.
What are you most looking forward to now that the vaccines have given us a light at the end of the tunnel?
We’re mostly looking forward to being able to spend time with family and friends, and to share this incredible place with everyone! I think we’ve all been missing that human connection — handshakes, hugs, and bare faces. Knowing we’ll be able to pay the bills will be a nice bonus as well!
Catch the season three premiere of Island of Bryan on Sunday, April 18 at 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada.