Minister says island needs Grand Lucayan revival as additional room inventory will drive airlift
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that Grand Bahama ‘desperately’ needs hotel room inventory to drive needed airlift to the island, noting that addressing the state of the Grand Bahama International airport is key to the growth of the island’s tourism sector.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) conference yesterday, D’Aguilar called for patience as the government seeks to negotiate a potential acquisition of the airport with operator Hutchison Port.
“The operator and owner of the airport Hutchison Ports has rebuilt a small terminal but it’s not in its former glory and primarily because arrivals into the destination aren’t what they were pre-Dorian,” he said.
“The government recognizes that for any growth to happen on that islands something has to be done with that airport. We are in the negotiation process. The press never likes the fact that we are in a negotiation process.
D’Aguilar said: They want to know when it’s going to be done. Negotiations take twists and turns and take time. We are obviously negotiating what we feel will be in the best interest of the Bahamian people but it takes time. I ask the Bahamian people to be patient.
“We are looking at all of our options and I’m sure we will be coming to a decision soon.”
Commenting on further on the state of the island’s tourism sector, D’Aguilar said: “Grand Bahama has been challenged for a while. Four per cent of our stopover visitors went to Grand Bahama and so it was a small and diminishing percentage. The government immediately recognized that we had to do something about it.”
He continued: “What Grand Bahama lacks is scale. When I asked for a report on how many hotel rooms are open and sellable in Grand Bahama – it is 775 which is half the size of the Hyatt and that’s the entire Grand Bahama.
“That’s not the Airbnb products and other options but they desperately need scale. That is why we need the Grand Lucayan property to come on stream and create scale and with the scale comes lift and economic impact. Grand Bahama needs investment in its tourism infrastructure.”
Last week, D’Aguilar said the sale of the Grand Lucayan is ‘inching ever closer’ although there is no deal yet.
For several months, the government has been negotiations with Holistica – a joint venture company formed by Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group – on the renovation and development of Freeport’s cruise port and the Grand Lucayan resort complex.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew that caused parts of the Grand Lucayan to be shut down and the property to be subsequently taken over by the government in order to protect jobs and ensure the sale of the property.