CONUNDRUM: D’Aguilar says Grand Lucayan sale “challenged”, but deal on the “home stretch”

CONUNDRUM: D’Aguilar says Grand Lucayan sale “challenged”, but deal on the “home stretch”
The Grand Lucayan.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While “difficult”, the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort on Grand Bahama to Royal Caribbean and the ITM Group is on the “home stretch”, according to Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar, who said the pandemic has made for “extremely challenging times”.

“We’re obviously on the home stretch to concluding an agreement,” D’Aguilar told Eyewitness News.

“Obviously, these are extremely challenging times.

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar.

“The hotel was always challenged to operate profitably.

“The government clearly stepped in to salvage that hotel and try to find a credible buyer to sell it onward to, so that they could operate it.

“We thought we had found ones in RCC and ITM. Certainly, at the time, they were very reputable companies and had very strong balance sheets, and had great plans for that property.

“But COVID has put a curveball in that process. We’re contemplating reopening it now as the transaction takes a little bit longer than we first anticipated, but it’s a conundrum.”

The resort’s 196-room Lighthouse Pointe is expected to open on March 25.

Bookings on its website are also available beginning that date.

“We just hope that in the very short term, we will conclude this agreement and sell it on onward to Royal Caribbean and ITM, who hopefully will employ either their own resources or someone else to assist them in running that hotel, but it is a challenge,” said D’Aguilar, adding that Grand Bahama’s economy has been hit hard.

The resort has been closed since mid-March 2020.

Lighthouse Pointe.

It features three brands: Memories, the 500-room Breaker’s Cay and Lighthouse Pointe.

The government purchased the resort for $65 million in August 2018.

Last March, the government signed a heads of agreement for the sale of the resort to Royal Caribbean International and Mexico-based ITM Group, which would redevelop the resort and construct a new cruise port.

However, the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, which brought the global economy to a standstill, has left the cruise sector marooned for almost a year.

Last November, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said the government was “feverishly” assessing an amended timeline provided by the developers of the resort in order to complete an end-of-year turnover.

But that has not happened.

According to Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited Chairman Michael Scott, there were reservations surrounding the restructured proposal for the sale.

An audit was being performed by KPMG to assess the deal.

Asked about the cost of the resort since its closure, D’Aguilar said the board advised there was very little difference in cost between operating the resort and keeping it closed.

The operating costs are approximately $1 million per month.

The minister said: “They are of the view that it is worth opening.”

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.