NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday the deal for the purchase and redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan property and expansion of the port terminal is still on track despite a ‘small delay” due to COVID-19.
The new timeline will see the purchase of the property completed in the coming months and then the start of the construction component of the project at the beginning of 2021,” D’Aguilar said.
The Government signed a Heads of Agreement with Hollistica, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises and the ITM Group, to purchase the Grand Lucayan property for $65 million three months ago.
“This $250 million project is so important for Grand Bahama since it will involve the construction of a new, attraction filled, cruise port in the Freeport Harbour as well as transform the Grand Lucayan Resort into a theme park, featuring water-based family entertainment, with dining, gaming and entertainment options, and vastly improved hotel accommodations,” said D’Aguilar.
“There was a considerable amount of opposition to the government’s decision to acquire this hotel. We were castigated for our decision to buy the hotel even though our sole intention was purely to hold it for a short period of time as we sought out a reputable, well funded, successfully managed company to acquire it and, more importantly, redevelop it,” said D’Aguilar.
He added: “The government could not, should not and did not heed the advice of our naysayers who screamed from the hilltops that we should let this hotel shutter and deteriorate into the condition of the Royal Oasis down the road.”
The Tourism Minister noted that a finalization of the deal was very close when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
This he noted disrupted and significantly affected “the core business of the key investors in this transaction and everything was temporarily put on hold while we sheltered in place and tried to work out if and how this project would continue.”
D’Aguilar noted that having been significantly impacted by Hurricane Dorian, Grand Bahama “needs a catalyst” to bring about the revitalization of its tourism product.
“This project will ultimately bring about hundreds of jobs in construction, thousands of jobs in operations of the new port and the redeveloped hotel and thousands of indirect jobs in the local economy as hundreds of thousands of stopover visitors and millions of cruise passengers begin to vacation in Grand Bahama,” he said.
He added: “This project, along with the cruise port intending to be constructed by Carnival Cruise Lines in Freeport, involving, once again, hundreds of millions in construction and thousands more jobs, are to form the catalyst for the rebirth of the tourism industry in Grand Bahama.
“We just need to get this Coronavirus behind us so that people can begin cruising again and these projects can get underway in earnest!”