Minister of State responsible for Grand Bahama Senator Kwasi Thompson confirmed to Eyewitness News on Friday that the Sunwing Group did not pull out of Grand Bahama, but the government actually rejected the company.
His comments came on the heels of a press release issued by the airline company late Thursday evening.
The release revealed that the company had reached an impasse with the government in negotiations, and would be pulling out its flight services into Grand Bahama.
The Canadian airline is responsible for transporting approximately 30,000 tourists to the economically depressed island.
“This is really a situation where the government rejected what it was being asked to pay them [Sunwing] to bring flights into Freeport, “Thompson confirmed.
“Sunwing entered into discussions with the government from May 2017. They operated the Memories Resort and brought in airlift for that resort, but they brought that in at a cost,” Thompson explained. “Since that [Memories Resort] closed, the government continued discussions with Sunwing to operate the same air service for the Our Lucayan.”
Thompson revealed that what Sunwing was asking for was unreasonable.
“What Sunwing was asking us to do was to pay them $4 million dollars on an annual basis for them to operate a four-month summer schedule of flights,” he claimed.
“But, in addition to paying them this $4 million per year, they wanted that agreement to be locked in for a seven-year period, and they wanted to increase the amount by 10 per cent every single year.”
Thompson revealed that Sunwing also wanted the government to pay $250 per room credit, which would run the government into millions of dollars of expenditure.
He also said that the airline company reportedly refused to put in place protection to safeguard Bahamian jobs.
“In their deal to operate the hotel, they refused to accept the ratio of 85 per cent Bahamian and 15 per cent non-Bahamian,” Thompson further claimed.
“They believed that there should be more non-Bahamians working at the hotel. They refused to accept the position that government realized what is happening with regards to employment issues on Grand Bahama and they refused to cooperate with us in this regard.”
Thompson said Sunwing also wanted to fill its job offerings with foreigners without first advertising to Bahamians.
“The company also wanted exclusivity when it came to concessions. Again, we could not agree to that,” Thompson said. “If we agreed to that, then that meant that we could not do anything to assist that Bahamian.”
He reaffirmed, “those terms are unacceptable,” and added that the government is not ignoring the fact that Grand Bahama will need airlift to boost its economy.
He told Eyewitness News that every company which government is currently locked in negotiations with regarding the purchase of the Our Lucayan resort has an airlift component integrated into the proposed agreement.
In the short term, Thompson revealed that the government is working with Bahamasair and other groupings to build additional airlift packages into Grand Bahama.