The ocean glows a milky turquoise. Tiny waves lap at the powder-beige sand, in no rush to reach the line of postcard-perfect palm trees.
Hundreds of luxury villas are positioned to take in the view, but there are no guests. There are no roofs, either; neatly tied bundles of red tiles are stacked outside.
The paralyzed work scene at the Cap Cana resort, a development including four luxury hotels, three golf courses and a mega-yacht marina, is a victim of the global financial crisis, which hit the Caribbean's tourism industry especially hard.
Cap Cana fired 500 workers last month after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and a $250 million loan fell through. Talks to re-negotiate a $100 million short-term loan collapsed last week, and more layoffs are expected.
“Our project has been affected by the economic tsunami that has paralyzed the global financial markets,” said Cap Cana President Ricardo Hazoury.
Construction is also paralyzed at the Ritz-Carlton Molasses Reef resort in secluded West Caicos, where 60 Chinese workers revolted last month to demand back wages. About 160 workers have been sent home to China, and it's unclear when construction will resume at the project.
This month, the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas laid off about 800 workers, citing low occupancy rates. Baha Mar Resorts Ltd. laid off about 40 employees at its Sheraton Resort in the Bahamas and 40 more at the Wyndham Nassau Resort. The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union has called a demonstration today to demand government aid.
In Puerto Rico, the Caribe Hilton laid off more than 50 people this month because of rising costs and sluggish occupancy rates. The last time the hotel had to lay off workers was after the 9-11 attacks, General Manager Jose Campo said.
But some remain optimistic. In September, Hilton Hotels Corp. announced plans to build 17 more hotels in the Caribbean, giving it 30.
“We are very confident that in the next five years we can do these numbers,” said Gregory Rockett, leading the expansion.