But Minister says he will not “pop champagne” as yet
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Although Grand Bahama continues to struggle with stopover visitors and cruise passengers down 24 percent compared to last year, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that with the anticipated new investments such as the Grand Lucayan resort to come onstream within two years, “Grand Bahama will rebound”.
The minister said negotiations with Royal Caribbean and the ITM Group are continuing within the agreed schedule.
“I am advised that all is going well,” he said during the budget debate.
“Obviously, there are some tough negotiations to take place, but indications from the RCCL side are that we should be optimistic that this deal will happen.
“In addition, negotiations with Carnival are also progressing and we remain optimistic about a positive outcome as well.”
Carnival Cruise Line is expected to provide over 1,000 direct jobs in Grand Bahama with the development of a new cruise port in Sharp Rock, four miles east of Lucaya in Freeport.
The joblessness rate in Grand Bahama stood at 11.9 percent in the most recent Labour Force Survey, which was conducted in November 2018.
D’Aguilar continued, “Mr. Speaker, things are looking up for Grand Bahama with both of these deals in play.
“But, I don’t want to pop the champagne as yet.
“Let us get the deals done so that we can show the naysayers who said that we should not buy the hotel and how wrong they were.”
Echoing the sentiments of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, D’Aguilar said the Free National Movement administration cannot fix the economy of The Bahamas until it addresses the economy of Grand Bahama.
To that end, the tourism minister said the government is “singularly focused on getting these deals done”.
RCCL and Mexican port developer, ITM Group, partnered in a bid to acquire the Grand Lucayan in addition to developing a water-based theme park around the resort and the Freeport Harbour.
In March, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) President and CEO Michael Bayley told Eyewitness News Online that the company, and its partners, were approximately at the halfway point of finalizing a proposal to the government for the acquisition of the Grand Lucayan Resort.
By March-end, the government’s special purpose vehicle — Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd. — signed a letter of intent (LOI) with RCCL and the ITM Group for the purchase of the resort for $65 million and the redevelopment of the Freeport Harbour.
The government purchased the resort for $65 million, with $30 million paid up front.
It borrowed the balance from the former owners, which will be a government-guaranteed mortgage paid over three and a half years with interest.
The resort operates at a $1 million loss per month.
The Lighthouse Pointe is the only property of the three brands which reopened after the resort close its doors following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
The resort also features Memories and Breaker’s Cay.